Teaching Ethics: Effect on Moral Development

Nursing Ethics 4 (1):57-65 (1997)
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The purpose of this study was to determine the development of moral judgement in first-year and senior baccalaureate nursing students. These students were enrolled in three separate nursing programmes, each of which differed significantly in ethical content. The sample totalled 180 students enrolled in three New England programmes. Programme A included an ethics course taught by a professor of ethics. Programme B integrated ethical issues into all nursing theory courses. Programme C did not include ethical content in theory courses. The design was of a developmental cross-sectional study. The dependent variable was the development of moral judgement, as measured by Rest’s Defining Issues Test. The independent variable was the amount of ethics taught in the nursing programmes and the level of academic education. The senior nursing students from programme A scored significantly higher than the other senior groups on the Defining Issues Test. The conclusion is that an ethics course with group participation and a decision-making element significantly facilitated nursing students’ development of moral judgement.



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