The Plan: A Moral Dilema

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The effect of the learning disabilities on the life of the student is not limited to the school environment. It permeates every area of life, but it is within the framework of the institutions of formal learning that the learner experiences the greatest difficulties. The areas that present the greatest problems in school are reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics [ 14 ].

The mission of the school counselor working with students with learning disabilities is to enhance the educational experience of both the individual and the school by creating a cultural environment, respectful of the rights of the students [ 1 ]. The work of the school counselor can be summarized in the following ways: Work with the administration: The counselor is a partner with the administration in the school in decision-making and locating and identifying the population in need of assistance.

Work with the staff: The school counselor provides assistance to staff both to individuals and groups training and developing the educational and therapeutic teachers, assistants, volunteers in the best approach and in development and prevention. Placement, absorption, and transfers: The school counselor makes referrals, diagnoses, and placements so that the educational and therapeutic environment is appropriate for the personality of each student.

Developmental programs from preschool to age 21—life skills: The school counselor promotes implementation of developmental programs in keeping with the particular needs of each school. Intervention in times of pressure and crisis: School counselors work to strengthen the resilience of the educational staff of the students to guarantee that they will function professionally during crises and prolonged pressure.

In high schools, in addition to the roles already discussed, the guidance counselor is responsible for determining if the skills and ability of the students are consistent with their interests in learning specific subjects and their desire to learn in a specific type of program or to learn a vocation. The counselor has to help students make the best choices in choosing which subjects to learn and what type of program is suitable based on their ability. Additionally, the school counselor must follow the progress of each and every student and offer advice regarding changes in subjects, levels, or course of study [ 15 ].

When an ethical dilemma arises in the work of a counselor, they must use their professional judgment to make decisions.

Seed 1: Gr. 12 Unit: Ethical Dilemmas

This process is complex and sometimes does not lend itself to unequivocal solutions. Our study arose out of an interest in understanding the factors involved in the decision-making process of school counselors. We wanted to learn more about the ways school counselors cope with moral and social dilemmas and how they attempt to find a balance between the needs of the school establishment and the sometimes conflicting demands of the students and parents.

We emphasized the types of dilemmas counselors regularly encounter, especially in secondary schools where these dilemmas are most likely to arise. Simchi [ 16 ] claims that the perspective of guidance counselors is based on their personal outlook and that the approach they take is not connected to the actual event but is dependent more on the their personal beliefs, past experience, and training. Shakedi [ 17 ] adds that the nature of the dilemma determines the way the counselors work forces the counselor to work according to particular ethical principles and to disregard other principles, which may be no less important.

Solving Ethical Dilemmas – Ethics in Law Enforcement

In order for the school to perform all of its tasks, guidance counselors must be able to fulfill their roles and to handle the problems that arise in the schools with sensitivity. Our goal is to evaluate the way school counselors cope with social and moral dilemmas they encounter during the course of their work and the way they solve these dilemmas in schools with students with learning disabilities [ 18 , 19 ]. The research compares counselors who use an open approach to those who use a conservative approach in solving social and moral dilemmas.

How do school counselors with an open pedagogical approach cope with social and moral dilemmas? How do school counselors with a conservative pedagogical approach cope with social and moral dilemmas? All of the counselors worked in secondary schools with students with learning disabilities in the center of the country. The selection of the schools and counselors was random. They were chosen on the basis of their willingness to participate in the study. All of the counselors had teaching certificates. We asked the participants to describe one major dilemma that had actually occurred during their work as counselors.

Each of the 15 participants described a social or moral dilemma. We asked them what type of dilemmas they frequently coped with during the course of their work. Each of them selected one particular dilemma. We were particularly interested in their approach to solving the dilemma and the factors they took into consideration in solving it. We categorized the strategies used in solving the dilemma into two groups. The more open, democratic group, for example, presented the dilemma for discussion to the class, listened to the student responses, asked them what they considered to be the best way to approach the problem, and considered their responses in implementing solutions.

More conservative strategies simply told the students how they should behave, solving the problem for them. The research was conducted in secondary schools in the center of the country for students with learning disabilities. The schools all contained a heterogeneous population from a socioeconomic perspective—the parents were middle class and above.

The investigator went to each of the schools and met with the principals and the counselors, and they all signed consent forms and answered the questions on the written form. This is a qualitative study designed to examine how school counselors cope with social and moral dilemmas. The findings were analyzed in accordance with the research questions with an emphasis on the nature of the specific issues that arise in coping with moral or social dilemmas [ 17 ]. Afterward, we broke them down into categories that were closer to the research questions.

The ideas were grouped according to content categories. We reread the replies and checked the connections between them. We attempted to find content not related to the research, and these replies were eliminated. After the final collection of data, we were able to see if the information we had answered our research questions. Below are descriptions of a variety of dilemmas and the way we categorized them based on the pedagogical approach used by the counselors: an open, democratic approach versus a conservative, traditional approach.

Dilemma 1—The first dilemma focused on a boy, considered to be the class clown, who frequently disturbed the lessons. The school, through the counselor, avoided involving the parents because they found it so difficult to cope with their son that they used excessive punishment, which harmed his development and personality. The dilemma was whether the school counselor could cope with the problem alone or should involve the parents. Notwithstanding, the school counselor and the school tried to manage the student alone despite the difficulties. A program was developed for him with careful follow-up, for every time he acted out of place or was involved in vandalism, the seriousness of his actions was made clear to him.

Dilemma 2—The second dilemma concerned the violent behavior of a student who claimed to have experienced a tragic event. The student behaved in an offensive way and in opposition to all of the rules of the school. He fabricated stories and was aggressive toward teachers. The dilemma was whether to punish him based on the seriousness of his actions or to try to understand what was behind his behavior. I gave in and returned to class. The school counselor decided to stay in close touch with the student, to continue to encourage him, and to give him a chance to start again.

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Dilemma 3—The third dilemma was about a student who asked to be excused from participating in a school project due to serious economic problems. The project required the use of a personal computer after school to answer questions. The dilemma was whether to excuse him from participating in the project or to try alternative ways for him to participate for the sake of the educational experience. I asked him to meet with me and he explained the financial difficulties and his willingness for me to find a solution.

Through the treatment, the counselor involved another student who had a computer to work with him on the project. The counselor solved the problem with the involvement and agreement of both students, and as a result, the student with the financial problem was able to participate in the project that was a very important part of the classwork. Dilemma 4—The fourth dilemma was about a student who behaved offensively to the school counselor, who was also his teacher, when she returned exams. Should he be punished or should the teacher help him understand that his behavior was undesirable?

The student saw that the school counselor made a mistake in the calculation.

In response, she tried to convince the student that his behavior is undesirable. The student accepted the comment of the counselor and understood that his behavior was out of place. Dilemma 5—The fifth dilemma is about a student who behaved aggressively toward the proctor who is also the school counselor during an exam. The dilemma is how to behave with the student—to punish her or to try to explain the seriousness of her unacceptable behavior and tell her the way she should behave.

I tried to quiet her down in a nice way, but unfortunately, I did not succeed in understanding or figuring out her behavior. Dilemma 6—The sixth dilemma was about a student with learning disabilities who was asked by the teacher who is also the school counselor to buy a gift for a classmate who had broken his leg and was absent for an extended period. The student was supposed to use all of the money that had been collected from the rest of the class to buy the gift, but in fact she purchased a gift with only part of the money and kept the rest of the money for herself.

The dilemma was whether to tell the student directly what she has done, which may be emotionally damaging to her, or to make her indirectly aware of the severity of her actions. The school counselor decided not to directly insult the girl but to help her understand the message by presenting parallel cases that had arisen in class. The counselor delivered the educational message to the girl in a way that was not harmful and not in front of the class, but helped her understand the seriousness of what she had done.

Dilemma 11—The 11th dilemma was about a popular female student, whom all the girls liked very much, but considered herself to be superior to the other girls and was not willing to be their friend. The dilemma was whether to involve the popular girl and to speak to her about her improper behavior or to allow time to prove to her that her behavior is not acceptable.

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Tali complains that Donna keeps her distance from her and is unwilling to be her friend. This situation was brought to the attention of the school counselor, and it was decided not to intervene. He believed that as time passes, the popular girl would understand the value of the other girls in the class and the importance of maintaining good relations with them all.

The school counselor presented a number of stories to the class on the topic of accepting others to illustrate models of desirable behavior that were especially important for this one particular girl.


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Dilemma 14—The 14th dilemma is about someone who is a teacher as well as a counselor and whether to show support and to identify and participate with a strike that the Parents Committee and other community organizations called, which would help their demands gain acceptance by the authorities.

Alternatively, the counselor could take the side of the authorities and not identify with the strike in any way. Students in special education in secondary school would miss a lot of material, and if the strike persists, would make it impossible for them to learn what is required. In this case, the counselor decided to participate in the strike, to strengthen the groups supporting it, and to disregard orders not to strike. Dilemma 7—The seventh dilemma was about a students who made fun of a classmate who mispronounced words when he spoke. Although the school counselor did not discuss the episode in class, he explained the mistake to the student and punished him appropriately for his actions.

Dilemma 8—The eighth dilemma was about a girl who cheated on an exam. The proctor who is also the school counselor saw that the student was using extraneous material during the exam. The dilemma was whether to approach the student during the exam and tell her that she was cheating or to discuss it with her privately after the exam.

Dilemma 9—The ninth dilemma was about a student who had saved a sum of money to participate in a class trip. As a result, the student could not participate in the trip. The dilemma was whether to cancel his participation because his father had taken the money that he had paid or to try to find alternative sources of funding so that the student could come on the trip. The school counselor said that the student should take the money that he had already paid for the trip back, give it to his father, and not participate in the trip.

In this case, the seriousness of the harm that this caused the student who had learning disabilities was not taken into consideration. The school counselor did not attempt to find an alternative solution or to allow the student to come on the trip and to remain integrated in the class. Dilemma 10—The tenth dilemma was about a group of students who decided to surprise the teacher and make him a party for his birthday.

The students had not consulted the teacher about the preparations for the party. The dilemma was whether or not to continue with the plans for the party respecting what the class had organized or to stop the party plans because the teacher was strongly opposed. The teacher expressed serious concern and asked that the party be canceled.

The response of the teacher was very strong and showed that he was unwilling to digress from the format of the curriculum. The teacher asked the students to cancel the party, but the counselor supported a more modest event. Dilemma 12— The 12th dilemma was about two girlfriends, when one of them is very dependent on the other so much so that the stronger one exploits her and asks her for personal favors.

The dilemma was whether to intervene to stop the exploitation or to ignore the situation and hope that the girl would find a way to end the dependence on her friend. In this case, the school counselor intervened. He met with one of the girls privately and afterward met with them together. He explained more desirable ways of behaving toward friends and threatened both of them with severe punishment if the situation did not change.

Dilemma 13—The 13th dilemma is about a social event held in the home of one of the students. The event was considered problematic because a few of the students who regularly misbehave were likely to destroy property in the home of the hosts. The dilemma was whether the counselor should intervene and prevent the event from taking place out of concern that the problematic students would destroy the home of the host or to leave it up to the host to handle the behavior of the students. Here the counselor decided to intervene and to forbid the students from having the event and did not allow the student to host the event.

He spoke to them directly and gave them strict instructions forbidding the event from taking place. Dilemma 15—The 15th dilemma is about a girl who took a history matriculation exam. Her father is a history teacher in the school.

Ethical Principles in Planning

During the exam, the father walked into the class and gave her the answers to the questions. In this case, the school counselor decided not to report the episode, taking a traditional approach, protecting his own personal interests above the interests of the community.

The main goal of the research was to examine the ways school counselors coped with social and moral dilemmas in secondary schools for students with learning disabilities. In this study, we asked 15 school counselors to describe the dilemmas they encountered in their work and tell us how they handled them. From an analysis of the dilemmas that we examined, we observed two different approaches: one expressed a more open, democratic approach to solving dilemmas and the other a more closed conservative approach. Handling dilemmas in the more open, democratic way was characterized by an individualized, therapeutic approach to meet the needs of the students with close follow-up by the school counselor.

This approach included many creative solutions to problems they encountered. The counselors emphasized the internalization by the students of their unacceptable behavior, met with the students, and raised the dilemmas for discussion in class by presenting parallel examples [ 7 ]. The characteristics of the open approach are consistent with the fifth model—the complete discourse—according to Oser and Althof [ 6 ].

According to this model, the teacher facilitates a discussion among those involved and allows them to be involved in the decision-making process and in the implementation of the decision [ 7 , 20 , 21 ]. In contrast, the more traditional, conservative approach to solving dilemmas is through punishment related to the severity of the act by the school counselor or other authorities in the school. This is without giving a chance to the students to internalize the severity of the acts or to improve their behavior. Handling dilemmas in this way is based on traditional principles, which focus on the rules without taking into consideration the needs of the students.

According to the typology used in this research, we examined the way school counselors handled social and moral dilemmas in two conflicting ways: the open democratic approach and the conservative, traditional approach. There are other pedagogical approaches discussed in the professional literature. We will focus on three of them: a the behaviorist approach, b the constructivist approach, and c the cognitive approach [ 22 ]. According to the behaviorist approach, the educational process is based on observable behavior that takes place through stimulus and response.

The emphasis is on strengthening the desired response that improves the chances that the response will repeat itself when the appropriate stimulus appears [ 22 ]. Coping with social and moral dilemmas using a behaviorist approach includes practicing and repetition, creating a gradual sequence and immediate feedback. This way of handling dilemmas emphasizes adopting routine, automatic skills where the role of the school counselor focuses on training, transfer of information, and providing feedback [ 23 ].

In the process of coping with these dilemmas, no attempt is made to provide a given structure of knowledge to the students or to determine which mental processes are necessary for them. Students are characterized as respondents to environmental conditions and do not play an active role in creating the environment. The main factor is the organization of stimuli and results within the environment. This description is consistent with the following dilemmas: in an episode in which the student ridiculed another student who mispronounced words or the student who was caught cheating on an exam.

Which alternative best protects the moral rights of individuals? Which alternative would be most just? Which alternative would lead to the best overall consequences? Which alternative best promotes the common good? Which alternative would help one develop and maintain a virtuous state of character e. Make a Decision Considering these various points of view, which of the alternative actions would be the best? We should not expect that the answer to this question would be unambiguous. We hope, however, that we will have enough information to pick a specific alternative.

If we cannot do this with confidence, we may need to go back through Questions 3 through 9. What would other people with good judgment think of the justification of your decision? Consider Your Action in Retrospect In retrospect, was the action — and its results for others as well as your own moral character — the best action? What do other people with good judgment think of the action and its results? Our Subscribing Members. Click here to learn more. Follow us. Become a Member EERI provides members with many ways to stay on top of the latest research and professional developments.

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