Student reflections on the value of a professionalism module

Date22 February 2013
Publication Date22 February 2013
AuthorLynda Holland
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Student reflections on the value
of a professionalism module
Lynda Holland
School of Technology, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyze written reflections of final yearcomputing students
taking a professionalism module that covered the social, legal, professional and ethical aspects of
computing.Society’s dependence on computers makes it essentialthat computing students, whose future
work may involve the analysis, storage and security of privatedata, are capable of identifying ethical
issues and of making reflective moral judgements. The capacity to make moral judgements has been
linked to an ability to reflect, so the aim of this research was twofold, to investigatestudents’ familiarity
with the concepts the module covered and their reflectiveability.
Design/methodology/approach – The research takes the form of an exploratory case study with
qualitative data from written reflections examined using NVivo and word cloud analysis.
Findings – The students found it difficult to write reflectively and the majority of their reflections
were either descriptive writing or descriptive reflection which considered events from one perspective.
Awareness of the topics covered by the module appeared to be low prior to taking the module.
Research limitations/implications – This research identifies the need to develop students’
reflective skills and professional awareness in order to enhance their professional performance.
Practical implications – Reflective writing and concepts such as profession and ethics need to be
includedthroughout computingdegrees, not just in a final year module.As studentsare strategic learners
thesetopics also need to be coveredin enough depth at each level so theyare assessed and treatedseriously
by students.
Social implications Given the ubiquitous nature of computers and society’s high level of
dependence on them it is essential that students’moral reasoning skills are developed throughout their
course, so on graduation they are capable of ethical thinking and can make reflective moral judgements.
Originality/value No other qualitative research was found which covered this area and no
research was found which raised these issues.
Keywords Universities,Curricula, Information technology,Professional ethics, Students,
Moral judgement,Computing, Reflection
Paper type Research paper
What specific characteristics make an occupation a profession has proved a fertile
research topicfor academics since the early twentiethcentury and produced various lists
of traits,which vary by occupation but have in commonthe requirement for a professional
body and a code of conduct to regulate the behaviour of practitioners (Ford and Gibbs,
1996, p. 50; Wilensky,1964, p. 137; Pavalko, 1988,p. 26; Brint, 1994, p. 27). However, while
ethical codesprovide a normative model on which practitioners can base theirbehaviour,
the implementationof such codes relies on an individualpractitioners’ ability to recognise
an ethical dilemma and to applya high level of moral judgement to any situation. Moral
judgementsare decisions relating to whetheran action or inaction is good or bad based on
a combination of emotion and reasoning measuredagainst a perceived standard of good
(Green, 2002, p. 520; Hauser, 2006). Making moral judgements therefore involves first,
identificationof a moral issue; considering methodsfor resolving conflicts and the ability
to rationalise a course of action (Rest et al., 1997, p. 5). Moral reflection is therefore an
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Value of a
Received 25 July 2011
Revised 23 February 2012
13 August 2012
Accepted 24 September 2012
Journal of Information,
Communication and Ethics in Society
Vol. 11 No. 1, 2013
pp. 19-30
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14779961311304130

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