Rethinking 'business is business' : a criticalist perspective on teaching business ethics
Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics. Conference 12th 28-30 Sep. 2005 Adelaide, S. Aust.
Business Ethics (220102)
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This paper reports on a study into student perceptions of a Socratic approach to teaching business ethics. The paper lays out a criticalist proposition that there is a discourse of ‘ethics-in-business’ in which ethics are, pragmatically, subsumed by a more strategic economics focus to business management practice. This discourse of ethics-in-business is claimed to be so pervading that the education of business ethics is likely to come under its influence. Thus, from within the dominant discourse, ethics education has the potential to further that discourse. Against this backdrop, there is a place for a critical approach to teaching business ethics, and critical management education offers a framework from which to question the taken-for-granted mind-sets about ethics-in-business. Critical management education is claimed to find some theoretical sympathy with the Socratic Method, and this paper focuses on a modified Socratic approach to teaching business ethics in a coursework graduate business program. There is an outline of the Socratic classes and the context in which they were delivered, and the use of data triangulation in the research methodology is explained. The conclusion positions the study in a wider context about the pedagogy of ethics in business. While the research appeared to show some support – from students – for the adoption of the Socratic Method in teaching business ethics, opportunities to refine the class delivery mechanisms were identified. The conclusion also proposes areas for further research. This study did not claim to determine whether the Socratic Method would produce ethical business managers. This is surely because the true measure of students’ learning of business ethics must reside, somewhat anxiously, in those students’ ultimate practice of it.