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There are no Answers, Only Choices: Teaching Ethical Decision Making in Social Work

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In teaching students about ethical decision making in social work, it is essential that the students are able to recognise the moral implications of their work and develop a deep understanding about ethical issues and their personal responsibility for making ethical choices. Thus, more than a "how to do it" approach is needed and teaching students about values and ethics is an essential thread that runs through our experience-based social work education program. The present paper describes a learning unit that sought to teach students about ethical decision making as a critical thinking process and, in so doing, to integrate students' knowledge and experience of values, ethics, policy, and research in the final year of study. The relationship between values, ethics, policy, research, and social work practice provided an ideal context within which students could learn to integrate their knowledge and experience and apply it directly to their fieldwork practice. The paper ends with our critical reflection on this teaching experience and a critique of decisionist ethical frameworks.
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Keywords: Ethical Decision Making; Ethical Decision Making Frameworks; Teaching Ethics; Virtue Ethics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Newcastle, Australia

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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