Dr. Lori Charron, professor of communication at Saint Mary’s University, knows that now—more than ever—classes in communication ethics are needed.

She and a group of colleague communication educators verified this prevailing theory in a published study, recently recognized as a Top Journal Article by the National Communication Association Communication Ethics Division.

The award was presented at the November NCA convention in Las Vegas.

A number of authors across the U.S.—including Dr. Tammy Swenson-Lepper from Winona State University—have been working on the article, “Communication Ethics in the Communication Curriculum: United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico,” for the past two years.

This study investigated the status of communication ethics teaching at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Data were collected from 193 institutions that responded to an online survey. Results showed an increase in communication ethics courses compared with 19 years ago, with 51% now offering a required or optional course in communication ethics.

Why is communication ethics so necessary today?

“Because of the world,” Dr. Charron said. “Look at how ISIS is using social media. It’s important for us to understand how communication can be used for good versus evil.”

The most common reason for not offering a stand-alone college course was that ethical concerns were included in other classes. However, findings illustrate the value of a stand-alone ethics course with education in moral reasoning.

Respondents also noted a decrease in focus on classical ethical theory and an increase in attention to applied ethics and moral reasoning skills. The authors propose that these findings merit further discussion of the perceived tension between the classical philosophical foundations of communication ethics and ethics in practice.

“We’re doing our students an injustice if we are not providing the tools they need to think through their communication choices and to prepare for the moral dilemmas they will face,” Dr. Charron said.

The article can be found in Communication Education, the leading journal in the discipline, published in June 2015: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/867NkDRvY8hba7ssXYBb/full

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