A Modular Approach to Business Ethics Integration: At the Intersection of the Stand-Alone and the Integrated Approaches

Research paper by Laura P. Hartman, Patricia H. Werhane

Indexed on: 28 Jan '10Published on: 28 Jan '10Published in: Journal of Business Ethics


While no one seems to believe that business schools or their faculties bear entire responsibility for the ethical decision-making processes of their students, these same institutions do have some burden of accountability for educating students surrounding these skills. To that end, the standards promulgated by the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB), their global accrediting body, require that students learn ethics as part of a business degree. However, since the AACSB does not require the inclusion of a specific course to achieve this objective, it may be satisfied by establishing a stand-alone course in ethical decision-making, by integrating ethical decision-making into the existing curricula, by some combination of the two strategies, or through some alternative mechanism. Notwithstanding the choice of delivery process, though, the institution must ensure that it is able to demonstrate the students’ achievement of learning with regard to ethics, a bar that was raised, or arguably simply modified, in 2003. With learning objectives designed precisely to measure the student delta based on content, process and engagement in a particular class, those programs that have opted for stand-alone ethics courses may be (though not necessarily are) more prepared to respond to assessment-related inquiries regarding their programs or satisfaction of the standards. The relevance of the AACSB standards modification to the current efforts at ethics integration in business programs is instead a re-examination of how to create a program of integration that is designed to ensure the most effective learning results possible, while responding to the challenges presented by the integrated approach. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those challenges that may be somewhat universal to business school programs implementing the integrated approach, and to share one large university’s response to those challenges, along with lessons learned.