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The ethical decision-making gap in student ethics: examining how university students approach ethical dilemmas

Abstract

This study investigates university students’ approach to evaluate and solve ethical dilemmas and the rationale behind this approach. In evaluating ethical dilemmas, students form judgments and recognize what is right or wrong in a given dilemma. However, in solving ethical dilemmas, their decisions may be congruent or incongruent with the judgment, thereby creating a gap between judgment and intention in cases of incongruency. The research also examines the rationale or motivations for why students cheat and plagiarize, and the contribution of personal and institutional characteristics as covariates. A scenario-based 2 × 2 between-subjects experimental design is applied to 221 U.S.-based university students. The findings reveal a gap between the judgment that evaluates an ethical dilemma and the intention to act to solve (by rewarding or punishing) such ethical dilemma. The results also identify five factors reflecting 26 items explaining why students cheat and plagiarize. This study can help educators address the incongruency in a student’s approach to evaluate and solve ethical dilemmas and improve student’s ethical education and critical thinking.

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Correspondence to Rosalynn A. Vasquez.

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Vasquez, R.A. The ethical decision-making gap in student ethics: examining how university students approach ethical dilemmas. International Journal of Ethics Education 7, 53–71 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40889-021-00133-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40889-021-00133-3

Keywords

  • University student ethics
  • Ethical dilemma
  • Ethical judgment
  • Intention to act
  • Motivations to cheat