Professional Ethical Dilemma Group Report

PIDP 3260 – Professional Practice
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
May 26, 2018

a. What is the nature of the ethical dilemma?

The Dilemma: Scenario 5

The facts of the dilemma are as follows:

NOTE: As conveyed in Assignment 4, PIDP 3260 Course Moodle.

NOTE 2: ‘You’ are the instructor.

– Tyler is a Practical Nursing (PN) student, and is on academic probation from failing two classes in the first semester.

– In the second semester, Tyler took on a reduced course load.

– Your second semester Pharmacology class is a required course in the PN program.

– Tyler failed the final exam due to very basic math errors in drug calculations, leaving him one point short of a passing grade; Tyler will be forced to withdraw from the PN program.

– You have witnessed Tyler’s significant effort to improve his grades by seeking help with math from the learning centre, meeting with you during office hours throughout the semester, and putting in many additional hours.

– Tyler has had difficulty adjusting to college life, has anxiety about his student loan debt, and gets flustered in stressful situations like exams.

– You have developed a closer relationship with Tyler than most of your students, and have seen his determination and desire to succeed.

– You are worried about patient safety if Tyler were to get a job as a nurse.

– You felt that Tyler was improving until marking his final exam.

– You are considering finding an extra point somewhere allowing Tyler to pass the class.

KEY Aspects of the Dilemma:

– You have developed a sympathetic relationship with Tyler.

– You are considering finding an extra point somewhere so that Tyler can pass your class. But, you are worried about patient safety if he were to get a job as a nurse.

Key Takeaways:

NOTE 3: The remainder of this report is appropriated from Assignment 4 PIDP 3260 Forum Discussion, Parry & Truant, 2018, April 29-May 23, unless otherwise cited. We employed author and ethicist Rushworth Kidder’s ‘Nine Steps for Ethical Decision Making’ to guide us in the process (1995).

– We both agree that Scenario 5 is a moral dilemma, because the instructor is considering changing a mark based on knowledge of a student’s personal situation and degree of effort:

“It is the responsibility of [a] teacher to keep relationships with students focused on pedagogical goals and academic requirements” (STLHE, 1996, para. 6).

– It is also the responsibility of the teacher to create a learner-centred environment:

“the teacher’s most basic responsibility is to design instruction that facilitates learning and encourages autonomy and independent thinking in students, to treat students with respect and dignity, and to avoid actions that detract unjustifiably from student development . . . In some cases, the teacher’s responsibility to contribute to student development can come in to conflict with responsibilities to other agencies, such as the university, the academic discipline, or society as a whole. This can happen, for example, . . . when a student with learning disabilities requests accommodations that requires modification of normal grading standards or graduation requirements” (STLHE, 1996, para 5.).

b. Whose interests are at stake?

Tyler: If Tyler passes Pharmacology he will become a Practical Nurse. If he fails the course, he must withdraw from the program.

The instructor: The instructor has the power to find an extra mark in the course so that Tyler will pass. The instructor has the power to trust the exam as an instrument, and let the mark remain.

Public safety and trust:

– Institutions trust that their programs produce competent graduates.

– Employers trust that graduates of a program are competent.

– Colleagues trust that coworkers are competent.

– Patients and their families trust that caregivers are competent.

c. What ‘right vs right’ paradigms are involved?

Kidder (1995), explains right versus right dilemmas: True dilemmas pit right against right. They are difficult decisions because there are valid moral arguments on both sides. Kidder outlines four paradigms which categorize different dilemmas. We found that all four can be applied to Scenario 5:

Individual vs. community: Finding an extra mark so that Tyler can pass the PN program could impact the community in which he practices.

–  Short term vs. long term: If Tyler goes into practice and discovers he is unable to manage, he could lose his profession. If he were forced to withdraw from the program, he may be able to re-enter later with a more solid foundation of skills, or find another vocation that he is better suited for.

Justice vs. mercy: It may be merciful to award the extra point to Tyler due to his personal circumstances, but would justice be served? Should you increase all the student’s marks by one point?

Truth vs. loyalty: Truth, would be leaving the grade as is, but the instructor feels a loyalty to Tyler due to his personal struggles.

We both agree that the individual vs. community paradigm will be most helpful in directing us to a sound decision in Tyler’s case. We are learning in the PIDP to focus on a learner-centred approach to adult education, but a sympathetic decision cannot be at the expenseof others. An instructor cannot place too much emphasis on alignment with an individual, without considering how their action or inactions can affect the greater good of a community. If we apply this paradigm we are asserting that the individual is Tyler and that the community are his future patients. “Whether you put the individual above the community, or the community above the individual, depends on the weight each of the lines of reasoning carries for you” (Kidder, 2009, p. 28).

2. What solutions did we consider? Whose interests are affected by each solution? How did we arrive each solution? Did we come up with a ‘third way’ option?

Solution One:


– Trust your Pharmacology exam as an accurate instrument of evaluation. Tyler will be forced to withdraw from the PN Program.


– This decision serves the instructor as a fair evaluator. It serves the institution in producing competent nurses. It serves the community by ensuring safe patient care from a competent nurse.

Decisional Approach:

– A ‘rules-based’ resolution principle is applied because it involves acting in ways that ‘model the highest principles, regardless of the consequences’ (Kidder, 1995). Trevor did not pass his final Pharmacology exam and that is criteria for becoming a nurse.

Solution Two:


– Find an extra point somewhere. Tyler will pass Pharmacology and ultimately become a Practical Nurse.


– This decision serves Tyler. He will not have to withdraw from the program.

Decisional Approach:

– A ‘care-based’ (Kidder, 2009) resolution principle is applied because it promotes Tyler’s interest, but this decision may not serve his community.

Solution Three – ‘Third Way’ Option:


– Trust your Pharmacology exam as an accurate evaluation instrument, forcing Tyler to withdraw from the PN Program.

– Advise Tyler to seek academic counselling to help him choose an alternative vocation (perhaps Tyler can use some credits from the PN program), or recommend that he gain practical experience as a volunteer (before re-applying). “Since the human brain learns by connecting new facts and skills to past experiences and knowledge, the brains of adults driven by the need to solve problems have natural ‘neural hooks’ to which new knowledge can be connected” (Knowles, Holton lll & Swanson, 2015, p. 227).


– In considering a learner-centred approach, this alternative solution will (ultimately) benefit Tyler, and benefit the community.

– This decision will benefit Tyler if he works on building a stronger and experiential foundation before re-applying to the program, or choosing an alternative vocation.

Decisional Approach:

– An ‘ends-based’resolution principle is applied because it involves producing the ‘greatest good for the greatest number of people’ (Kidder, 1995).

3. Our Decision:

Solution Three – ‘Third Way’ Option:

Our decision is to let Tyler’s grade remain without alteration, and employ our creative ‘third way’ alternatives.

– The instructor advocates on Tyler’s behalf to increase his chances of transferring to a related program, or recommend Tyler for a position in a healthcare setting in a volunteer capacity. The instructor knows that Tyler is a hard-working person who has a lot of dedication and ambition. These are qualities that the instructor can emphasize to any faculty and potential employer, thereby acting on Tyler’s positive attributes without making a decision that could harm the community at large.


– The instructor has a supportive relationship with learner. It is okay to create connections with learners, but we feel that an overly sympathetic relationship was fostered between Tyler and his instructor. Therefore: the instructor cannot morally fail Tyler without advocating professional guidance counselling, nor can the instructor ethically pass Tyler by ‘finding’ an extra mark.
– We agreed that the evaluation of learners is challenging, but evaluation is ultimately the most important aspect of our practice as instructors.
– We believe that we made a sound moral and ethical decision regarding Tyler’s dilemma. We trust in our evaluative process, thereby protecting the interests of everyone involved. Dr. Stephen Brookfield explains this well,

“For those of us who wish to build collegial, supportive relationships with students, giving evaluations is one of the most difficult, demanding and complex tasks we face; yet, done well, it is also one of the most significant spurs to learning” (2015, p. 185).

And finally, Kidder’s ‘Nine Steps for Ethical Decision Making’ (1995) was certainly an invaluable tool in arriving at our decision.

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited