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Educational Ethics

The practice of education produces thorny ethical problems across a variety of contexts:

  • When is classroom punishment justified?
  • What does it mean to treat students equally?
  • Do students have rights to privacy and free speech?
  • When should students be able to opt out of state-mandated tests or curricula that goes against family beliefs?

Practitioners, policymakers, and professionals in education and related fields need to be sensitive to the ethical complexities of issues such as access, equity, achievement and/or discipline gaps, and representation of marginalized groups.

This certificate program focuses on the historical context, theories, values and aims of ethical conduct within educational settings. It helps future teachers, educational leaders, policymakers, and citizens understand the ethics and values associated with education, becoming ethical educators and/or advocates for social justice.

Ethical decision making in education requires not only an understanding of moral deliberation, but also a keen appreciation of the social context of schools. This program explores the complex relationships between schools and society, education, and culture, engaging these through interdisciplinary studies of history and philosophy of education, sociology, and cultural studies..

Our program is specifically designed for students who want to acquire, discover, and apply expert knowledge from these disciplines to address and resolve pressing problems in schooling in just and humane ways. In this certificate, you will examine the humanities and social science to develop interpretive, normative and critical perspectives on education. The development of such perspectives helps educators to “exercise sensitive judgments amidst competing cultural and education values and beliefs” (Council for Social Foundations of Education, 1996).

Learning Goals

  • recognize and resolve ethical conflicts in educational settings
  • justify and defend a set of aims and purposes of education in democratic societies
  • explain the historical experience and specific needs of diverse student populations, and apply that understanding to contemporary schooling
  • and advocate for ethical sensitivity in matters related to educational policy

Opportunities for graduates

For students in education programs, this certificate supplements degree portfolios with additional expertise. Students will be able to confidently engage the spectrum of ethical questions that drive abiding and contemporary discussions of education, broadly construed.

For other students, this will enable the pursuit of additional academic work (in education or beyond), and/or professional opportunities in educational consulting, policymaking, analyses of non/governmental and social institutions/systems, etc. In short, this certificate program marries the scholarly rigor of its constituent disciplines with a flexibility that permits a wide range of practical opportunities for students after graduation.


Minimum Program Hours: 
12 credit hours

Required courses

ESPHE 6250 - History of Education (3 credits)
ESPHE 6403 - Ethics and the Professional Context of Education (3 credits)
ESPHE 8410 - Ethics and Education: Equality, Freedom, and Justice in Schools (3 credits)

Elective Courses (choose 1)

ESPHE 6410 - Philosophy of Education (3 credits)
ESPHE 7222 - History of Educational Policy (3 credits)
ESPHE 7410 - Modern Trends in Philosophy of Education (3 credits)
ESPHE 7413 - Professional Education (3 credits)
ESPHE 8411 - Educational Philosophy of John Dewey (3 credits)
ESEPOL 8352 - Educational Policy in a Democratic Society (3 credits)
ESEADM 7359 - Leadership, Inquiry, and Ethics (3 credits)


Bryan Warnick, Professor

Winston Thompson, Associate Professor