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The Influence of Business Ethics Education on Moral Efficacy, Moral Meaningfulness, and Moral Courage: A Quasi-experimental Study


  • Douglas May


  • Matthew Luth


  • Catherine Schwoerer



The research described here contributes to the extant empirical research on business ethics education by examining outcomes drawn from the literature on positive organizational scholarship (POS). The general research question explored is whether a course on ethical decision-making in business could positively influence students’ confidence in their abilities to handle ethical problems at work (i.e., moral efficacy), boost the relative importance of ethics in their work lives (i.e., moral meaningfulness), and encourage them to be more courageous in raising ethical problems at work even if it is unpopular (i.e., moral courage). Specifically, the study used a rigorous quasi-experimental pretest–posttest research design with a treatment (N = 30) and control group (N = 30) to investigate whether a graduate-level course in business ethics could influence students’ levels of moral efficacy, meaningfulness, and courage. Findings revealed that participants in the business ethics treatment course experienced significant positive increases in each of the three outcome variables as compared to the control group. The largest increase was in moral efficacy, followed by moral courage, and finally, moral meaningfulness. These findings are discussed in the context of the current research on business ethics education and POS. Implications for future research are discussed. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas May & Matthew Luth & Catherine Schwoerer, 2014. "The Influence of Business Ethics Education on Moral Efficacy, Moral Meaningfulness, and Moral Courage: A Quasi-experimental Study," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 67-80, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:124:y:2014:i:1:p:67-80
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1860-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ethan Waples & Alison Antes & Stephen Murphy & Shane Connelly & Michael Mumford, 2009. "A Meta-Analytic Investigation of Business Ethics Instruction," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 87(1), pages 133-151, June.
    2. David Desplaces & David Melchar & Laura Beauvais & Susan Bosco, 2007. "The Impact of Business Education on Moral Judgment Competence: An Empirical Study," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 73-87, August.
    3. Shao, Ruodan & Aquino, Karl & Freeman, Dan, 2008. "Beyond Moral Reasoning: A Review of Moral Identity Research and Its Implications for Business Ethics," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(04), pages 513-540, October.
    4. Cubie Lau, 2010. "A Step Forward: Ethics Education Matters!," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(4), pages 565-584, April.
    5. Hannah, Sean T. & Avolio, Bruce J. & Walumbwa, Fred O., 2011. "Relationships between Authentic Leadership, Moral Courage, and Ethical and Pro-Social Behaviors," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(04), pages 555-578, October.
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    1. repec:kap:jbuset:v:146:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3237-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:kap:jbuset:v:146:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2919-3 is not listed on IDEAS


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