Teaching Business Ethics

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 269–284 | Cite as

Effects of Education and Intervention on Business Students’ Ethical Cognition: A Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Study

  • Mohammad J. Abdolmohammadi
  • M. Francis Reeves


In this study, we present evidence on the changes inethical cognition of business students over afour-year period. We use the Principled Score(P-score) of the Defining Issues Test to measure thischange. Specifically, we first compare the P-scores ofstudents at the entry to, halfway through, and shortlyafter graduation from a business school to analyze theeffect size of education on ethical cognition.Secondly, for a sample of students in an electivebusiness ethics course, we compare P-scores at thebeginning, and at the end of the semester to analyzethe effect size of specific intervention course onethical cognition.

Prior studies in liberal arts fields have reportedhigh effect sizes from four-year college education onethical cognition, while a few studies have reportedonly moderate gains for business students. Consistentwith the liberal arts studies, our results indicatestatistically significant gains, and high effect sizesfor business students as well. Similarly, priorstudies have reported moderate gains in the P-scorefrom intervention courses in various fields. Ourresults indicate only low to moderate effect sizes forbusiness students. Importantly, while the gain waslow, and statistically insignificant for femalestudents, it was moderate, and highly significant formale students. Implications for education and researchare discussed.

ethical cognition principled score intervention longitudinal cross-sectional 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abdolmohammadi, M. J., D. R. L. Gabhart and M. F. Reeves: 1997, ‘Ethical Cognition of Business Students Individually and in Groups’, Journal of Business Ethics 16, 1717–1725.Google Scholar
  2. Bebeau, M.: 1994, ‘Influencing the Moral Dimensions of Dental Students’, in J. R. Rest and D. Narvaez (eds.), Moral Development in the Professions, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 121–146.Google Scholar
  3. Berton, L.: 1995, ‘Business Students Hope to Cheat and Prosper, a New Study Shows’, The Wall Street Journal (April 25), B1.Google Scholar
  4. Ford, R. C. and W. D. Richardson: 1994, ‘Ethical Decision Making: A Review of the Empirical Literature’, Journal of Business Ethics 13, 205–221.Google Scholar
  5. Galbraith, S. and H. B. Stephenson: 1993, ‘Decision Rules Used byMale and Female Business Students in Making Ethical Value Judgments: Another Look’, Journal of Business Ethics 12, 227–233.Google Scholar
  6. Gilligan, C.: 1982, In a Different Voice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  7. Henderson, V. E.: 1988, ‘Can Business Ethics be Taught?’ Management Review 77(8), 52–54.Google Scholar
  8. Holt, D and Jeffrey, C.: 1991, ‘Ethical Development of Accounting Students, Business Students, and Liberal Arts Students’, Working Paper, Iowa State University.Google Scholar
  9. Kohlberg, L.: 1981, Essays on Moral Development, The Philosophy of Moral Development I and II, Harper & Row, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  10. McNeel, S. P.: 1994, ‘College Teaching and Student Moral Development’, in J. R. Rest and D. Narvaez (eds.), Moral Development in the Professions, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 27–50.Google Scholar
  11. McNair, F. and E.eE. Milam: 1993, ‘Ethics in Accounting Education:What is Really Being Done’, Journal of Business Ethics 12, 797–809.Google Scholar
  12. Paine, L. S.: 1988, Ethics Education in American Business Schools, Ethics Resource Center, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  13. Pascarella, E. T. and P. Terenzini: 1991, How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  14. Ponemon, L. and D. R. L. Gabhart: 1990, ‘Auditor Independence Judgments: A Cognitive Developmental Model and Experimental Evidence’, Contemporary Accounting Research, 227–251.Google Scholar
  15. Ponemon, L. and A. Glazer: 1990, ‘Accounting Education and Ethical Development: The Influence of Liberal Learning on Students and Alumni in Accounting Practice’, Issues in Accounting Education, 21–34.Google Scholar
  16. Randall, D. M.: 1994, ‘Why Students Take Elective Business Ethics Courses: Applying the Theory of Planned Behavior’, Journal of Business Ethics 13, 369–378.Google Scholar
  17. Rest, J.: 1986a, DIT Manual (3rd edn.), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  18. Rest, J.: 1986b, Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory, Praeger Publishers, Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  19. Rest, J.: 1994, ‘Background: Theory and Research’, in J. R. Rest and D. Narvaez (eds.), Moral Development in the Professions, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 1–26.Google Scholar
  20. Rest, J. and Narvaez: 1994, ‘Summary: What's Possible?’ in J. R. Rest and D. Narvaez (eds.), Moral Development in the Professions, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 213–224.Google Scholar
  21. Ries, S. I.: 1992, ‘An Intervention Curriculum for Moral Development’, Journal of Moral Education 21(1), 41–58.Google Scholar
  22. Ruegger, D. and E.W. King: 1992, ‘A Study of the Effect of Age and Gender upon Student Business Ethics’, Journal of Business ethics 11, 179–186.Google Scholar
  23. Schalaefli, A., J. R. Rest and S. J. Thoma: 1985, ‘Does Moral Education Improve Moral Judgment? A Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies Using the Defining Issues Test’, Review of Educational Research 55, 319–52.Google Scholar
  24. Singh, J. B.: 1989, ‘The Teaching of Ethics in Canadian Schools of Management and Administrative Studies’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, 51–56.Google Scholar
  25. Tansey, L. A.: 1994, ‘Right vs. Wrong’, Managing Your Career (Spring/Summer), 11–12.Google Scholar
  26. Weber, J. and S. Green: 1991, ‘Principles of Moral Reasoning: Is It A Viable Approach to Promote Ethical Integrity’, Journal of Business Ethics 10, 325–333.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad J. Abdolmohammadi
    • 1
  • M. Francis Reeves
    • 1
  1. 1.Bentley CollegeWalthamUSA

Personalised recommendations