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Code of Conduct for University Educators

by Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist - Consultant

Most institutions of higher education produce a statement covering ethical teaching practices, but such a statement can often be buried deep within a larger Handbook for Instructors. So here are some general areas that should be considered in a higher education setting.

Honesty - Perhaps the primary characteristic for a university instructor is a commitment to honesty and integrity in all aspects of the educational process. This would include keeping promises made in the syllabus, in assignments, grading rubrics, and even class and office hour scheduling.

Fairness - Because grading is often seen as subjective, an education ought to do as much as possible to make the grading process as open and objective as possible. Many educators now do this through the creation of grading rubrics, which attempt to create unambiguous grading criteria that the students can see prior to submitting work for evaluation.

Respect for Persons - At all times, the instructor needs to foster a respect for others. This would mean communicating and modeling to students that there should be mutual respect among and between all persons??the students for each other and for the instructor. This means that the classroom should remain an area free of verbal abuse, intimidation, or harassment in any form. The instructor should show respect and courtesy to students during any interpersonal interactions and in responding promptly to students' need for help or feedback.

Content Competence - An educator should do the needed reading and professional activities necessary to keep course content current, accurate, and appropriate to the student's program of study.

Pedagogical Competence - An educator should be aware of alternative instructional methods or strategies and be willing to select those methods that are most effective in helping students achieve the course objectives.

Student Confidentiality - Student grades, letters of evaluation, and/or forms of communication should always be treated in a confidential manner. Release of any student information should be made only with the student's consent.

Student Development - The essential responsibility of the educator is to contribute to the intellectual development of the student, so the educator should avoid actions or comments that exploit or discriminate or any other behavior that might detract from the student's development.

Related Resources: The Educator's Code of Conduct. PennState Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, College of Medicine, http://www.hmc.psu.edu/college/education/conduct.pdf
Thompson, Meryl and John Tomlinson. Professional Ethics and the Teacher. Trentham Books, 1997.

Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist

About the author

Now an information industry consultant, Ruth has a Ph.D. in Information Transfer from Syracuse University and an MA. In Library Science from the University of Iowa. Her research and publications are in the fields of information seeking and information architecture. During her 35 years in academia, Ruth has taught at Syracuse university, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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