Why our ethics curricula don't work.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact our ethics curricula have on students seems marginal at best. Students take the ethics courses we offer and pass the tests we give, but no one's behavior changes as a result. We fundamentally see ourselves teaching about ethics, which is slightly different than teaching ethics--and expecting behavior to change as a result of what is taught. The premise of this article is that our ethics courses are inadequate in content and form to the extent that they do not cultivate an introspective orientation to professional life. In some cases, they amount to little more than a study of various state dental practice acts or the Code of Ethics of the American Dental Association. Three specific weaknesses are identified in a typical ethics curriculum: 1) failure to recognize that more education is not the answer to everything; 2) ethics is boring; and 3) course content is qualitatively inadequate because it does not foster an introspective basis for true behavioral change. A fourth element, an innovation, is directed to this third weakness and entails implementing a precurriculum very early in the dental educational experience to address the disconnect between knowledge and action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of the American College of Dentists
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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