© Symposion, 2, 3 (2015): 387–403
Social Science Investigations
Ethical Competence for Teachers:
A Possible Model
Abstract: In Education Sciences, the notion of ‘competence’ is widely used, both
as an aim to be reached with students and as performance in teachers’
education. This article advances a type of competence that is highly relevant for
teachers’ work, namely the ‘ethical competence.’ Ethical competence enables
teachers to responsibly deal with the daily challenges arising from their
professional roles. In this study, I put forward a definition of ethical
competence and I propose a conceptual structure, both meant to support the
illustration, description, and development of ethical competence for teachers.
Keywords: ethical competence, ethical knowledge, ethical skills, ethical values
‘Ethical competence’ is not a notion commonly used in everyday language,
but mostly in academic and professional contexts. My decision to write on this
topic was motivated by several reasons. The first reason is that although ethical
competence is an attractive, powerful, and promising concept, with several
advantages for research and practice (De Schrijver and Maesschalck 2013),
scholars have often neglected it. So far, most studies on ethical competence have
arisen from fields such as Medical Ethics and Business Ethics. In some countries,
Romania included, it does not even appear in national educational documents
such as The Ethical Code for Teachers or The National Professional Standards for
Teachers, documents supporting the consolidation of professional identity. The
second reason is that education has a strong normative dimension (Berlak and
Berlak 1981; Buzzelli and Johnston 2001) and an axiological one (Cucoș 1995;
Gardner 2005, 2007).
Education is fundamentally and primarily about values. Educators have
the fundamental role in transmitting the Greek triad of values (Goodness – Truth
– Beauty). Among these, the moral values are essential. Teaching is a ‘moral
endeavour’ (Hansen 1998) and the teacher plays the role of a ‘moral agent’
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This paper is supported by the Sectoral Operational Programme
Human Resources Development (SOP HRD), financed from the European Social Fund and by
the Romanian Government under the contract number POSDRU/159/1.5/S/133675.
(Buzzelli and Johnston 2001). He or she enters into relationships with several
actors: children, colleagues, parents, and he/she does that during long intervals.
These relationships are complex, unpredictable and involve many decisions.
They constitute the background for the educational process. Before being a
teaching-learning relationship, it is a moral relationship involving people and
their values. As Campbell (2008) has argued, the ways in which teachers respond
to the daily events related to teaching-learning-evaluation should pass through a
selection process in which moral dimension is important: “Ethics and teaching
seem inherently compatible and unavoidably intertwined” (Campbell 2008,
358). A teacher lacking ethical competence commits, no doubt, certain mistakes
in relating to students, and the pedagogical relationship is the background of
teaching. In this activity, the priority is not the technical, but the human aspect,
that is, to show equal treatment, empathy. Before being a relationship aiming to
build the student’s personality, it is a relationship between two persons, who
have to agree and understand each other as people. McPherson, Kearney and
Plax (2003) claim that two thirds of teachers engage in behaviors that
demoralize students. Among the destructive and offensive aspects of
communication, we may mention anger, disappointment, jealousy, and
embarrassment (Boice 1996). The poor development of ethical competence has
multiple harmful influences on students. It may affect the short-, average and
long-term process of learning (Braxton, Bayer and Noseworthy 2004), by
slowing or impeding the development of cognitive and emotional skills. The
student’s overall psychological balance can be affected, as well as his/her healthy
insertion in the social environment and his/her chances of building the desired
career. Poenaru and Sava (1998) and Popovici (2000) use the concept of
didactogeny to designate the negative impact certain undesired behaviours of
teachers can have on students. Neglecting the moral dimension of the
pedagogical relationship may lead to dysfunctions such as anxiety, lack of self-
confidence, fear of school, and/or opposition to school requirements.
Ethical competence can be understood as the psychological skill that
supports teachers to find morally adequate solutions to daily professional
problems. Given the major impact of the teaching profession on children’s lives,
the research on the educators’ ethical competence is necessary and undoubtedly
connected to the professional component. We argue that ethical competence is
not just a simple professional skill, but rather it is fundamental and constitutive
for the teaching role.
The central concept of this study is competence. We shall rely on it in order
to understand the meaning of the teachers’ ethical competence. The assumption
is that ethical competence is an indispensable condition for the proper exercise
of professional roles in education. In this study, I will propose a definition for the
concept of ethical competence of teachers, which I shall explain by the means of
a conceptual structure. The classic elements of competence (knowledge, skills,
Ethical Competence for Teachers: A Possible Model
and values) are the basic landmarks for the presentation of the ethical
competence of teachers. Ethical knowledge, ethical skills, and ethical values will
be analyzed in relation to the context of the teachers’ work, accentuating specific
Defining Ethical Competence
Defining competence is not easy, as it implies epistemological, ethical, and
political controversies (Tarrant 2000). As a highly complex finality, competence
has been at the centre of debates and research in various fields, such as
Psychology, the Management of Human Resources, Social Sciences, Science
Education, etc. Most commonly, competence is described as an ensemble of
skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values that enable the efficient carrying out of
an activity. The more diverse the experiences accumulated, the finer is the
regulation of thought and action, resources and strategies (Perrrenoud 1998). In
a very general sense, competence includes dynamic knowledge, which is
activated in a number of situations, involving savoir-dire, savoir-faire, and savoir-
être (Minder 2003).
There have been several attempts at theoretically outlining the concept of
ethical competence. De Schrijver and Maesschalck (2013) synthesize three types
of definitions: general definitions, definitions based on James Rest’s (1986)
theory, and definitions based on the KSAs structure (Knowledge, Skills, and
Attitudes). The first type of definitions tries to capture a general point of view on
ethical behaviour. What does ethical behaviour mean? For Gardner (2007), for
instance, an ethical relationship is of the type: Person → Role. By assuming an
ethical position, the individual regards himself or herself as a member of a
profession and ask himself/herself how he/she should behave in order to fulfil
this role successfully. In order to illustrate the second type of definitions, I shall
resort directly to Rest’s (1986) Four-Component Model. Rest’s research has led to
the conclusion that moral action is the result of four psychological sub-
processes: moral awareness, moral judgment or reasoning, moral motivation,
and moral character. Illustrations for the third type of definitions are provided
by Kavathatzopoulos (2002), who considers that ethical competence for
business includes: high ethical awareness, individual skills to handle ethical
issues, functional organizational structure and routines, communication and
argumentation skills, confidence, and emotional strength.
In this study, competence will be approached at an individual level, not at
a distributed level. It will be understood as a personal and not as a task-related
characteristic (Stoof et al. 2002). I have, thus, constructed a definition from a
more general perspective, one that reads as follows: ethical competence is a
complex structure of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that offer support
for the complex constitutive ethical role of the teacher, as a moral model for
students. Developing ethical competence for teachers includes a set of elements,
such as: 1. knowledge of and respect for moral values and norms; 2. the ability to
sensitively recognize moral situations; 3. the ability to correctly assess solutions
from a moral perspective; 4. the ability to overcome inner obstacles in order to
pursue moral goals.
I would also like to highlight the close connection between ethical
competence and professional freedom. Ethical competence enables teachers to
freely and autonomously relate to their tasks. It does not mean obedience to
institutional rules, superficial adaptation or circumventing the rules, but freely
reflecting on the space of professional freedom. Ethical competence enables
teachers to reflect on professional practices and pedagogical relationships. It
renders professional autonomy possible, as well as a genuine approach to
Ethical competence is not limited to the relational aspects of the teacher’s
work, but also relates to the whole set of a teacher’s professional
responsibilities: curricular design, lesson achievement, selection of teaching, and
Components of Ethical Competence for Teachers
The above definition of ethical competence demands clarifications. We shall
further rely on four elements of competence: ethical knowledge, ethical skills,
ethical values, and ethical attitudes.
Let us start with knowledge. The literature on the types of knowledge
related to teaching is vast (Cochran 1993; Grossman 1990; Shulman 1999;
Wilson et al. 1987). Different approaches have been applied to understand
teacher’s knowledge (political, economic, axiological, etc). It is obvious that
teacher’s relation with knowledge is essential, and that knowledge relates to
teaching in different forms.
Ethical knowledge is explained by Cambell (2010, 33):
Ethical knowledge is the term I have given to the heightened awareness that
teachers – some more than others – develop in response to their recognition of
their role as moral agents. As a kind of virtue-in-action, ethical knowledge
enables teachers to make conceptual and practical links between core moral
and ethical values such as honesty, compassion, fairness, and respect for others
and their own daily choices and actions. It moves teachers beyond viewing
teaching solely in technical, pedagogical, curricular, disciplinary, and evaluative
terms to appreciating the potentially moral and ethical impact their practice
has, both formally and informally, on students.
This approach equals ethical knowledge with the entire ethical
competence, as it includes knowledge, skills characteristic of ethical action
(sensitivity, motivation), values, and attitudes.
Ethical knowledge can be conceived as an intuitive, tacit, and experiential
type of knowledge. For instance, some psychologists claim that moral judgment
is fully nourished by intuition and tacit knowledge. Although psychological
research has long emphasized the role of conscious and rational reasoning
Ethical Competence for Teachers: A Possible Model
processes, recent models focus on the role of the unconscious and intuitive
processes in moral judgment (Haidt 2007; Bortolotti 2011). Moral decision-
making frequently occurs in complex situations that cannot be addressed by
standard inferential reasoning. Therefore, we must reconsider the role of non-
inferential forms of cognition, including moral intuition (Vokey and Kerr 2011).
Although it has been traditionally acknowledged that reflection is the best way to
make the best choices, it seems that this is not quite so (Bortolotti 2011).
Thinking about reasons does not improve the choices people make. In many
cases, reflection is compromising rather than promoting good decision-making.
Husu (2003) argues about the use of common sense in teaching. In his
study on building ethical representations in teachers’ pedagogical practices,
Husu (2003) claims that “...the social processes involved in the teacher’s school
settings were not based to any great extent upon pre-established ethical
reasoning, but on 'socially shared identities of feeling' (Shotter 1993, 54) that
teachers create in the flow of activity between them. […] Teachers feel not only
entitled, but also forced to use their common sense in teaching“ (Husu 2003, 17).
According to Dreyfus (1997), competence implies an unconscious,
intuitive and spontaneous functioning, but decision-making is rational. Only at
the level expert, decision-making is intuitive. Therefore, we may speak of several
types of intuitions: intuitions in the absence of theoretical knowledge and
informed intuitions. “At one extreme is the instantaneous, purely emotional,
often irrational reaction to a situation. At the other is intuition that complements
and augments fairly thorough analytical reasoning about the options available to
the decision maker” (Patton 2003, 989). Ideally, in education, we should reach
ethically informed intuitions, but given the precariousness of the teachers’ initial
training in ethics (Campbell 2011), this stage remains a desideratum. In this
paper, I argue that both types of intuition provide material for ethical judgment
Experiential knowledge also plays a relevant role in pedagogical practice,
since each educator is formed over time and gradually learns his or her teaching
roles. Among the elements of experiential learning, I need to mention here the
retention of valuable practices, assimilation of a useful daily routine, constant
redefinition of situations, and introduction of one’s own frame of analysis of the
educational environment. Building and exercising moral competence also
demands experience accumulated over time, as well as construction of the
teacher’s character. The teacher’s response to critical incidents depends on the
relationships with parents, students, and colleagues. It implies courage,
communication, empathy, honesty, and balance.
What types of theoretical knowledge does the development of ethical
competences support? It is mostly about the knowledge of ethical theories
(Utilitarianism, Deontologism, and The Ethics of Virtues). Ethical competence
should not be equated to its strict application. Ethical erudition in the absence of
ethical vocation is ridiculous (Pleșu 2008). From a business ethics perspective,
Kavathatzopoulos (2002) identifies several elements of theoretical knowledge as
components of ethical competence: knowledge of the normative foundations of
the field; knowledge of the laws, legal rules, and professional ethical codes;
knowledge of the structure and culture of organizations, along with an
understanding of human behaviour in organizations; knowledge of organization
development and the design approach. All these elements can also be seen as
part of the teachers’ ethical competence. In conclusion, one can argue that ethical
erudition is not sufficient, but necessary, as it nourishes intuitive knowledge.
Ethical skills support the teacher as ‘reflexive practitioner’ (Schön 1983),
involved in exerting occupational roles on a daily basis. In this research paper, I
have chosen to present these skills by taking into consideration four elements of
moral conduct identified by James Rest (1994):
1. The receptiveness component. Ethical sensitivity (Endicott 2001) or
moral awareness (Rest 1994) refers to recognizing a particular situation
as a morally relevant issue. The empathic interpretation of a situation
helping to establish who is implicated, what actions to take, and the
possible reactions and outcomes that might result is involved here
(Endicott 2001). Most generally, it means being aware of one’s self and
other people, of one’s environment, with everything implied by this
attitude. For Gardner (2007), receptiveness may be equated to a
2. The reasoning component refers to ethical judgment (Bock 2001) or
moral judgment (Rest 1994). Goodlad and colleagues (1993) argue that
teachers’ judgments are generally more important than the technical
elements of their work. The judgments are nourished by the teacher’s
socio-cultural, moral and political beliefs. It is not enough to recognize
that teachers constantly have to be in the middle of conflicting forces.
They also have to cope with this difficult matter, and this depends on
their ethical judgment (Colnerud 2006). This component refers to
formulating and evaluating morally justified solutions to the issue at
stake. This step requires reasoning through the possible choices to
determine which of them are ethically sound (Rest 1994).
3. The moral motivation component or ethical motivation (Lies and
Narvaez 2001). The relevant question is “Why be moral?” The answer
refers to giving priority to ethical action over other goals and needs. The
subjects should find internal resources to help them follow the moral
course of the action instead of transitory interests. For Oser (2013)
moral motivation is “an inner state, a mechanism leading to act or not to
act morally” (Oser 2013, 14).
4. The component of implementation or moral action (Narvaez, Schiller,
Gardner, Staples 2001). It refers to putting into practice the morally
correct decision. In order to complete the moral process, character traits
such as perseverance, integrity, and courage are required.
Ethical Competence for Teachers: A Possible Model
Certainly, these four components are closely related and their separation
is purely theoretical. In order to achieve a moral act, receptiveness, judgment,
motivation, and action should function altogether.
Ethical Values and Ethical Attitudes
Macaulay and Lawton (2006) have argued that the transition from virtue to
competence is a principle of public service, noticing that, despite various
perspectives, the concepts of virtue and competence are, in practice, very similar.
The author who most accurately expresses the connection between values and
competence is Georg Lind (2004). For Lind, moral competence cannot be defined
and measured without reference to an individual’s moral ideals or principles. He
has elaborated ‘the dual aspect model of moral behaviour,’ according to which
moral competence is determined, on one hand, by the ideal values and moral
principles of the individual and, on the other hand, by moral actions. We cannot
speak of a morally competent person without reference to moral principles and
One question to ask at this point is what are the ethical values of the
teaching profession mentioned by different authors? The list is very long. I have
identified arguments for including in this list the following concepts: the value of
care (Noddings 1984; Goldstein and Lake 2000), the best interest of the student
(Stefkovich and O'Brien 2004), responsibility, honesty, tolerance, loyalty, courtesy,
compassion, integrity, fairness, care, and respect (Starrat 1994), and responsibility,
justice, care, truthfulness, and commitment (Oser 1991).
Ethical values are related to the belief in moral good as a universal value.
Based on the suggestions provided by the authors mentioned above, I propose in
this paper seven core values of teachers’ ethical competence. These values are
care, freedom, autonomy, justice, respect, responsibility, and integrity. The
motivation for selecting these values is the following: the values that
characterize the teachers’ professional work are not determined by personal
choice. In any profession, the orientation is towards achievement of social,
altruistic goals and the teaching profession is no exception to this rule. I have
selected these values because they meet the children’s needs – as ‘clients’ of the
teaching profession – as well as the educators’ needs. The basic needs of school-
age children are met by building a positive frame for learning. The concept that
guides and measures the goodness, rightness and appropriateness of educational
policies and practices is the ‘best interest of the student’ (Stefkovich 2014, citing
Walker 1995). For Stefkovich (2014), ‘the students’ best interests’ are at the
center of the ethics of the profession which encompasses the ethics of justice, the
ethics of care, and the ethics of critique. The educators’ needs as professionals
support the teacher’s dignity as the person who cannot conduct his/ her activity
in any material and spiritual circumstances. In a draft of the Ethical code for
Teachers from France, Gilbert Longhi (2000) argued that teachers might refuse
to conduct educational activities when the material prerequisites for exercising
are not ensured.
These seven ethical values are relevant for the teacher’s work and, hence,
they are present in the vast majority of ethical codes of the teaching profession
around the world. The same values are required in other professions as well, but
they are eventually understood in a different manner or even slightly modified
depending on the nature of professional duties specific for each profession.
In my previous research, I have focussed on a general frame for
understanding these values, with more details in Ghiaţău (2013), but we go with
a brief presentation of those in here, too:
1. Freedom. The usual meaning of ‘freedom’ sends to the ability to make
decisions according to one’s own will, in the absence of any constraints. When
we say ‘freedom,’ we think of endless possibilities. However, real freedom is
based on respect of and for the rules. Absolute freedom, beyond all interferences,
is nothing but an illusion. It also implies limits, since it relies on other people’s
moral duties and judgement. Being free does not mean to defy somebody or
something, does not mean to ignore moral values. Devoid of ethical reasons,
freedom is associated with human decay. Authentic freedom is correlated with
positive axiological orientations.
One should further identify several marks of freedom in the school
environment: the possibility to create a space free communication; the absence
of obstacles in expressing opinions and the colleagues’ respect for one’s
decisions; the absence of external constraints in teaching and evaluation (no
interference practices); the freedom in the pursuit, development and
transmission of knowledge. Teachers’ professional freedom is not without
limitations. One cannot deviate from the content of the curriculum or ignore
specified aims of education. Situations such as as indoctrination, aggression, and
obscenity should not occur. Concerning teacher’s freedom of expression, Sadker
and Sadker (1988) highlighted clear boundaries, such as disclosure of
confidential materials, malicious, and/or false public statements about school.
Obscene and blasphemous forms of expression are not protected by academic
2. Autonomy. Authentic morality relies on autonomy. Jean Piaget (1968)
regarded moral autonomy as an individual’s stage of full moral development,
opposing it to moral heteronomy. Autonomous people have their own
motivation and are governed by their own reasoning. They recognize the
presence of limits and constraints, but reflect upon these restrictions and what
happens around them. Pedagogical autonomy means that the school system does
not intervene in the teachers’ work, assuming that they are fully competent in
their work (Eden 2001). Pedagogical autonomy is much more relevant than
physical autonomy – the latter may admit certain exceptions.
3. Justice / Fairness. The concept of justice is not at all obsolete or abstract
in relation to education. School has overcome the stage of being perceived as the
Ethical Competence for Teachers: A Possible Model
place where ‘teachers command and students obey’ and justice is no longer the
perquisite of people whose power is given by status. Justice, as a social value, is a
universal aspiration. When they designed the institutional code of university
ethics, Miroiu et al. (2005) identified the following themes for ‘justice and equity’
(Miroiu et al. 2005, 20-23): non-discrimination and equality of opportunity, the
elimination of conflicts of interest, prevention, and control of corruption. Justice
in education may signify very different, apparently contradictory things,
depending on the context. In certain situations, fairness requires that all students
have the same opportunities. In other situations, fairness means treating
students differently because they have different educational needs.
Related to the issue of justice in school there are three other issues that
need to be discussed (Lovat et al. 2002): the distribution of time and attention to
students, establishing rewards and punishments for students, and the
monitoring of granting professional opportunities to teachers.
4. Respect implies, most generally, “a relation between a subject and an
object in which the subject responds to the object from a certain perspective in
some appropriate way“ (Dillon 2014, 4). The respectful subject is always a
person, a human being able to express gratitude. Respect implies concession,
overcoming one’s egocentrism, without however annulling one’s self. Mutuality
of respect is the basis for interpersonal morality. Risking appearing obsolete, we
emphasize that the teaching activity cannot be conducted in the absence of an
atmosphere of respect, be it even formal. Respect provides the basis for the
assertion of other values. There are several hypostases of respect in the school
Respect for students’ culture (ethnicity, race, gender, economic status);
this form of respect implies designing and implementing the curriculum
appropriately, in accordance with the students’ background and cultural
Respect for the students’ psychological characteristics (cognitive skills,
social skills, language abilities etc.); any student deserves the teacher’s
attention in order to develop his/her potential, as allowed by his/her
individual psychological profile.
Respect for people who support education (teachers, counsellors,
5. Responsibility. Establishing responsibilities by setting the rights and
duties for each category of teachers will lead to a clear delineation of this
professional group. Directly or indirectly, school ‘is held accountable’ for the
‘students’ performances.’ A high level of performance is reflected, on the long
term, in the students’ professional success.
Some categories of professional responsibilities are:
a. Responsibilities in relation to the teaching process (related to the teaching-
learning-evaluation process and the elements they imply: objectives,
contents, methods, teaching relations etc.) - are the most important, because
they describe the essence of the profession. An educator should, first of all,
develop quality lessons. Generally speaking, teachers are acting responsibly
in school when: the teaching design is carefully conducted (the relation
between objectives, contents, methods and evaluation is ensured); the
teaching principles are complied with; the teaching and evaluation
methodologies are appropriate for the context. Outside the school, teachers
show responsibility when they display the values of healthy and civilized
b. Responsibilities in relation to the school institution – they constitute the
duties comprised by laws, statutes, and regulations;
c. Responsibilities in relation to parents and the (local, regional) community.
6. Care. Generally, care is defined as “a species activity that includes
everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can
live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, us, and our
environment, all of which seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web“
(Tronto 1993, 103). Noddings (1984) drew the distinction between natural
caring and ethical caring. When I care for someone because ‘I want’ to care, I am
engaged in natural caring. When I care for someone because ‘I must’ care, I am
engaged in ethical caring. Natural caring applies at the family level, whereas
ethical caring applies at the level of occupations.
Caring is not just smiles and hugs (Goldstein 1998). This is a superficial
approach. Caring is a way of being connected with someone, not a set of specific
behaviours (Noddings 1992). It involves a complex relationship, both intellectual
and emotional, which helps children to develop harmoniously.
Straits (2007, 174) has named the indicators of caring for college
instruction: being available to students, respecting students as individuals,
willing to give extra effort, welcoming questions in class, inviting discussion
outside of class, getting to know students, wanting students to learn / succeed.
Isenbarger and Zembylas (2006, 132) have established a taxonomy of caring in
education: 1. pedagogical caring – caring about children’s academic expectations;
2. moral caring – caring about the values communicated in learning; 3. cultural
caring – responsiveness related to children’s culture.
The research focused on teacher’s care is related to the following
problems: relations between teachers and students (Doyle and Doyle 2003;
Guzman et al. 2008), selection of teaching strategies (Gardner 2007), class
management (Watson 2010), and curriculum (Apple 1979).
Caring is important not only at elementary and secondary levels, but at the
university level as well (Guzman et al. 2008; Sumsion 2000; Straits 2007). In fact,
a concern for caring in teachers’ education system has long-term effects, because
the future teachers will replicate the caring conduct in their professional
Along with care, generosity is another notion invoked in describing an
authentic educational relationship. Generosity is the very meaning of the
teaching profession. It rejects corporatism and reveals the authentic relationship
with the other, as Etchegoyen argues (1991).
Ethical Competence for Teachers: A Possible Model
7. Integrity. Being upright means being moral par excellence, admitting no
compromises in applying moral principles. Consistency between words and
actions is essential. Integrity is the quintessence of moral values, because it
implies a synthesis of virtues: honesty, courage, respect. It is, at the same time,
attitude, goal, and means. Tirri (2001) shows that teachers are not always aware
of their integrity. But, when faced with a situation that involves feelings of
anxiety and uncertainty, they ask themselves whether they are acting with
integrity. Klaassen (2012, 14) presents the moral courage of teachers as a
combination of three aspects: 1. daring to present their own principles and
defend them against students, parents, colleagues, and school leaders; 2. the
‘fortitude’ of having the student’s best interest in mind under all circumstances,
the patience and the wakefulness involved in this constant process; 3. the
courage to be a moral role model for students and others.
These values refer, first of all, to the teaching profession and their
representatives, teachers. Teachers should display in their activities as ethical
principles, this set of values, values that guide all the interactions between
teachers and their students, parents, and colleagues.
Some values gain increased relevance depending on the students’
development stage. For example, for educators who work with smaller children,
up to ten years old, the main value should be care, followed by the others. The
reason is the fact that younger children need positive emotional support before
other things. They need to build affection towards their colleagues and
educators. Many studies bring evidence for the hypothesis of the prevalence of
the emotional support in the development of personality (Goldstein and Lake
2000; Raver 2002; Goleman 2008).
The internalization of this set of ethical values contributes to the building
of a personal ethos, one that actively supports the teaching roles. Obviously, the
list is open to include other virtues, as well. Mitrofan (1988, 41) presents a series
of traits which are essential for the development of pedagogical skills. These are
emotional traits (kindness, cheerfulness, generosity, passion, enthusiasm),
volitional traits (firmness, courage, perseverance, intransigency, patience, self-
control) and moral traits (consonance between word and action, sense of
measure, balance between exigency and tolerance, honesty, modesty, equity).
These traits could be part of the teachers’ ethical competence.
In this study, I have chosen to focus mostly on the teachers’ ethical competence
as presented in my definition and based on such a frame or structure as
Knowledge – Skills – Values and Attitudes. Thus, I have by and large highlighted
the following central ideas: a) Ethical competence deserves special attention in
the field of pedagogical research, since it is a fundamental feature teachers need
in order to fully fulfil their roles. Neglecting the moral dimension of the
relationship between teachers and students may lead to dysfunctions, such as
anxiety, lack of self-confidence, persistent fear towards school, opposition to
school requirements etc.; b) Ethical competence includes knowledge, skills,
values, and attitudes that support the teacher as a reflexive actor and moral
model for the students. The teaching profession means, therefore, not just the
successful transmission of information from a sender to a group of receivers, but
a constant intellectual and moral effort, a decision-making process, and a
struggle to follow an axiological path. c) The appropriate approach to ethical
competence for teachers should resort both in theoretical knowledge and
practical knowledge; d) Ethical skills for teachers include references to four main
components of the ethical behaviour which are receptiveness, reasoning,
motivation, and implementation; e) Although the essence of ethical values
remains the same, regardless of the profession, their contextualization in
education adds certain specific features, enhancing, thus, the knowledge in the
field of professional judgment.
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