Using the student learning portfolio in the teaching of Professional Ethics: A virtue-centred/principles-based approach


  • Surendra Arjoon
  • Meena Rambocas


student learning portfolio, moral competency, professional ethics, virtue, principles, reflective practice


In light of the global financial crisis of 2008 the demand for ethically-sensitive and morally-competent professionals have been at the forefront: especially those with some formal training. This paper proposes that a virtue-centred/principles-based approach addresses the ethical deficit of ethical sensitivity and moral competencies: principles provide guidance to the question what is the right thing to do and virtues address the issue of what sort of person I ought to be in order to do the right thing. In this context, the major research question this study seeks to answer is "does a virtue-centred/principles-based approach to teaching professional ethics affect moral competencies of students?" A Moral Competency Inventory (MCI) instrument that measures 10 moral competencies was administered to students in a final year undergraduate course at of The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Fifty-six cases which comprised two groups were analysed: the MCI instrument was administered on separate occasions at the start and at the end of the course. The development of a Student Learning Portfolio which incorporates the virtue-centred/principles-based approach was the main intervention strategy used to facilitate a self-management change. Quantitative (factor analysis, multivariate analysis of variance and discriminant analysis) and qualitative (content analysis) techniques were used for data analysis. The results indicate that there is statistically significant difference between the MCI scores at the start and the end of the professional ethics course suggesting that the teaching approach and assessment mechanisms adopted were effective in improving moral competencies. In particular, individual moral competencies are more likely to be affected than group competencies. Additionally, the constructs that are most influenced by the intervention strategies are students standing up for what they believe is right, the ability to let go of their own mistakes, and the ability to let go of others' mistakes.