How often do we as practitioners consider the ethics and morals of what we do? What kind of ethics and morals do we need to consider as practitioners? What part do ethics and morals play in the design of learning solutions?
I don’t know how openly we discuss and debate ethics and morality in L&D. They probably feel like subjects which many would respond in quite a pithy way – “Of course I’m ethical”, “everything I do is about the care of others”, “I have a strong set of morals and would never waiver on these”.
And I’m left wondering, but really, how do we know if we’re crossing ethical and moral boundaries that we may not be clear on?
Let’s take ‘Learning Styles’ as an example. It is very widely reported and researched that Learning Styles as a design methodology for learning solutions and interventions is just ineffective. That is, if you design a learning solution by using Learning Styles as your approach and methodology, you may as well not bother. That’s because the research tells us that people just don’t improve their learning by using these design approaches.
And so the question is raised – should you continue to use Learning Styles, because you believe the theory to be useful and effective even though there is mountains of research saying that it is ineffective to do so?
If you choose to carry on using it, is that the right ethical choice?
This week, I shared on Twitter that I wanted to start a day of facilitation by asking people to draw a shield.
Just written up my notes for a day of team facilitation tomorrow. Starting with creating a personal shield to help build rapport with team.
— (((Sukh Pabial))) (@sukhpabial) October 3, 2016
I had some useful and helpful challenge from David Goddin and Simon Heath who helped me explore this some more.
What came out from this for me was that I hadn’t fully considered the connotations of using a shield, even though I’ve done it before and no-one has ever raised a concern about the activity. Now, this was to be the first exercise in a day of facilitation with a group I was working with. It was going to be given time for people to complete and to share what they’ve done. Because of that, I had to be comfortable in what I was going to be asking people to use. The idea of using a shield feels like it shouldn’t be controversial. David helped share an article about how arms are defined. On reading this I realised just how prejudiced against women a shield of arms (or similar) is. The description is heavily aimed at men and in enforcing stereotypes and messaging about men that I think is unhelpful in the modern age. There is a lot written these days about gender politics – how one gender has more power than another, and how the language we use influences these politics in different ways. I was not comfortable in using a shield as a facilitation tool knowing that there are such connotations involved.
So the moral question becomes – should I use it anyway, knowing that I would be reinforcing gendered stereotyping, but would probably go unnoticed by the group?
I chose to not go with the shield. Instead I chose to go with an image of a window.
Stylistically, it’s not too different from a shield. From a meaning point of view, though, a window presents a different interpretation for people – both literally and figuratively.
I updated my blog post yesterday to state that I want to be an ethically and morally lead facilitator.
I’m curious to know your reactions to this decision making I went through, what it encourages you to think about, and how you might want to challenge me on anything I’ve raised.