Purpose – Higher education (HE) in the past has been found to have a positive effect on the moral development of students from a variety of disciplines, decreasing conventional and increasing post‐conventional moral reasoning progressively at each level of study. This research aims to explore to what extent changes in moral judgement could be detected in students on computing degree courses, at three different stages of study, in order to establish if HE in the twenty‐first century has a similar effect and what level of moral awareness computing graduates/practitioners exhibit. Design/methodology/approach – The research takes the form of an exploratory case study which aimed to investigate the current situation in one institution. The defining issues test (DIT) questionnaire was used to gather data. Findings – Results showed little difference in the level of post‐conventional thinking between undergraduate students about to enter HE, final year undergraduates and students undertaking postgraduate studies. Research limitations/implications – This research questions if IT students moral judgement skills are at a level that enables them to be considered professionals. Practical implications – Recommendations are made for different teaching approaches to be adopted which place greater emphasis on relating learning outcomes to professional codes of conduct, and for computing professional bodies to take a more active role in defining components of courses they accredit. Social implications – Given the ubiquitous nature of computers and society's high level of dependence on them it is argued that post‐conventional thinking skills are essential for people intending to work with computer technology. Originality/value – Although the DIT questionnaire is been used extensively, no other research has been found that has utilised it to analyse moral judgement levels of HE students within the same subject discipline, at different levels of study.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 17, 2011
Keywords: Profession; Ethics; Moral judgement; Computing; Defining issues test; Information technology; Professional