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  This module is a resource for lecturers  

 

Exercises

 

This section contains suggestions for in-class and pre-class educational exercises, while a post-class assignment for assessing student understanding of the Module is suggested in a separate section.

The exercises in this section are most appropriate for classes of up to 50 students, where students can be easily organized into small groups in which they discuss cases or conduct activities before group representatives provide feedback to the entire class. Although it is possible to have the same small group structure in large classes comprising a few hundred students, it is more challenging and the lecturer might wish to adapt facilitation techniques to ensure sufficient time for group discussions as well as providing feedback to the entire class. The easiest way to deal with the requirement for small group discussion in a large class is to ask students to discuss the issues with the four or five students sitting close to them. Given time limitations, not all groups will be able to provide feedback in each exercise. It is recommended that the lecturer makes random selections and tries to ensure that all groups get the opportunity to provide feedback at least once during the session. If time permits, the lecturer could facilitate a discussion in plenary after each group has provided feedback.

All exercises in this section are appropriate for both graduate and undergraduate students. However, as students' prior knowledge and exposure to these issues vary widely, decisions about appropriateness of exercises should be based on their educational and social context. The lecturer is encouraged to relate and connect each exercise to the key issues of the Module.

Exercise 1: Building a no-blame, just culture in an organization

Present the following scenario to the students: You are a group of consultants that has been sent to the customs authority of country X. The customs authority is a public organization and recently had a major scandal. To avoid such issues in the future, the customs authority seeks to build a no-blame culture.

In small groups, discuss the following questions:

  • What are basic principles of a no-blame culture?
  • What steps would you recommend for developing a no-blame culture in the customs authority?
  • How can the no-blame culture be implemented in practice?
  • How can the customs authority raise awareness among its staff for the no-blame culture?
 

Lecturer guidelines

The students should first discuss the questions in groups (15 minutes). Representatives of the groups should then present the groups' conclusions to the larger class (five minutes each). Subsequently, the lecturer facilitates an open discussion about the issues raised by the different groups, or an in-depth discussion on whether a no-blame culture would be of value at the university (15-20 minutes).

 

Exercise 2: A tale of two stories

This exercise has been adapted from the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) toolkit and is explained in this short video (4:23 mins), from a course offered by the university of Virginia. The exercise has three parts. In the first part the students reflect on a time when they voiced their values in a values conflict situation; in the second part they reflect on a time when they did not do so; in the third part the students engage in small group discussions and then the lecturer facilitates a class discussion. Answers to the Part 1 and 2 questions should be prepared in advance of the classroom discussion as they can be challenging to recall in the moment.

Part 1: "Reflection on positive example".  Students are asked to recall a time at work or university, or a family or social situation, when their values conflicted with what they were asked or felt pressured to do and they spoke up and acted to resolve the conflict. Students are then asked to consider the following four questions and write down their thoughts and brief responses:

  • What did you do, and what was the impact?
  • What motivated you to speak up and act?
  • How satisfied are you with your response? How would you like to have responded? (This question is not about rejecting or defending past actions, but rather about imagining your ideal scenario.)
  • What made it easier for you to speak/act (the "Enablers") and what made it more difficult (the "Disablers")? Were these things within your own control? Were they within the control of others?
 

Part 2: "Reflection on negative example". Students are asked to recall a time at work or university, or a family or social situation, when their values conflicted with what they were asked or felt pressured to do and they did not speak up or act to resolve the conflict. Students are then asked to consider the following four questions and write down their thoughts and brief responses:

  • What happened?
  • Why didn't you speak up or act? What would have motivated you to do so?
  • How satisfied are you with your response? How would you like to have responded? (This question is not about rejecting or defending past actions, but rather about imagining your ideal scenario.)
  • What would have made it easier for you to speak/act (the "Enablers") and what made it more difficult (the "Disablers")? Are these things within your own control? Are they within the control of others?

The lecturer asks the students to share their positive examples only and their responses to the questions in small groups; they are then asked to discuss how their negative example differed and what may have made it easier to respond positively and effectively, without sharing the actual negative example; finally, the lecturer facilitates an open discussion.

Lecturer guidelines

In life or career, people routinely encounter situations that give rise to a values conflict. These are situations when one is pressured to act in a manner that conflicts with one's own values. Often it is not easy to align personal values and purpose with those of a boss, a co-worker, or a company at work; with classmates or friends at school; or with family, friends or acquaintances in life in general. This exercise is designed to help students identify and develop the competencies necessary to achieve that alignment by reflecting on previous experiences, successful and less so, at effectively voicing and acting on values. Furthermore, it enables students to discover which conditions and problem definitions empower them to effectively act on their values, and which tend to inhibit that action.

Lecturers should note that for this exercise a "values conflict" refers to a disagreement that has an ethical dimension.

The lecturer asks students to complete the written part of this exercise before they come to class, and only the small and large group discussions take place during the class.

 

Exercise 3: Peer coaching and the value of feedback

This exercise has been adapted from the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) toolkit and is available in this online handout.

Students are asked to consider the following scenario:

Person A recently joined a communications firm as a legal advisor. Person B is a manager and responsible for acquiring new clients. One day, the manager asks the legal advisor to draft a contract for a new client and provides a couple of clauses that are to be included. The legal advisor notices that these clauses are vague and may pose a commercial risk to the client. The legal advisor informs the manager but the manager refuses to listen or discuss the matter, claiming that revenue targets must be reached. The legal advisor sets the contract aside for a couple of days and then decides to confront the manager again and to speak up against such unethical practices. For this purpose, the legal advisor has pre-scripted arguments and has prepared a strategy on how to approach the manager.

Students are asked to reflect individually on a strategy the legal advisor could employ to speak up, and on arguments that could be used for this purpose (10 min).

Students are asked to form small groups. In each group, one student assumes the role of the legal advisor and the remaining students act as "peer coaches". The student designated as the legal advisor explains to the peer coaches his or her strategy and scripted arguments (10 min). The participants are then asked to silently reflect on this explanation, according to the following guidelines.

Reflection guidelines for peer coaches

After listening to your colleague's proposed solution to the values conflict under discussion but before discussing it, take a moment to silently consider your responses to the following questions:

  • What is your immediate response to your colleague's strategy and "script"?
  • What are the strengths of this response?
  • What questions do you still have for your colleague?
  • If you were the target of this response, how do you think you would react?
  • What might improve this response?
 

Reflection guidelines for the legal advisor

After sharing your solution to the values conflict under discussion but before discussing it, take a moment to silently consider your responses to the following questions:

  • What do you see as the strengths of your response?
  • What still concerns you?
  • What do you think would be helpful in enabling you to respond more effectively? What would you like to ask for from your peers?

In their small groups, the students work together to improve the proposed strategy and scripted arguments (15 min).

Subsequently, the lecturer facilitates an open discussion with the larger class on whether peer coaching was helpful. The following questions could guide the discussion: How did the students playing the legal advisor feel about the input from the coaches? Did the students playing the coaches feel that they could contribute?

Lecturer guidelines

The exercise may also be followed with role-play, where a student designated as legal advisor enacts the strategy and speaks up against the manager, and the other students act as peer coaches. The students should still follow the above guidelines for reflection. However, role-playing should only be conducted at the end of the exercise, after the peer coaches have had a chance to refine and enhance their feedback while working in small groups. In addition, it is critically important to engage the students who are playing the manager in helping to improve the approach used to encourage ethical action; this is essential as the lecturer does not want to encourage rehearsal for unethical action and also because the lecturer does not want to give the impression that the unethical response is just as good as the more values-driven approach.

When designing, reflecting upon and discussing responses to values conflicts, the guiding questions in the Key Issues section of the Module are useful and may be distributed by the lecturer as an additional resource for students.

 

Exercise 4: Ethical business practices

The lecturer asks students to imagine the following situation: You are working as an assistant to a manager of a company. Your company is bidding on a large, publicly tendered contract with a foreign government. After six months of expensive preparations and bidding, a government official assures you and the manager in a phone call that you will get the contract. Right before the contract is signed, someone from the government's purchasing department requests a last-minute "closure fee". Your company needs this contract to reach its revenue target for this year. The manager decides to go ahead and pay the closure fee to get the contract. You notice that your company does not receive a receipt for the payment. You decide to check the tender provisions but you find no mention of an official closure fee.

A)   You are convinced that the payment violates your company's code of conduct and is indeed an act of corruption. You decide to go ahead and confront the manager, but the manager refuses to listen or discuss the matter. What sorts of excuses or rationalizations might the manager offer?

Students are asked to discuss this question first in groups. Subsequently, the rationalizations discussed in the groups are discussed with the larger class.

B)   Groups are asked to pick one excuse or rationalization and to try to counter it by developing arguments to prove that the excuse is invalid. Students are encouraged to make use of action-planning and script-writing techniques. In particular, they should be encouraged to build their argument so that it relates to personal beliefs and values, or to the values and codes of ethics of their organization. They should also consider which communication method to choose (e.g. formal, informal, written, or personal talk).

Depending on time, the lecturer can ask a couple of groups to present their counter arguments to the rationalization they chose.

C)   The lecturer asks the students to do a brief role-play in groups of two, where one student plays the manager putting forward the rationalization and the other student tries to voice his or her belief and counter the rationalization. Of course, this sort of role-play should only occur after the entire group has engaged in ethical problem-solving (as above) and as also mentioned above, it is critically important to engage the students who are playing the manager who proposed the unethical action in helping to improve the approach used to encourage ethical action; this is essential as the lecturer does not want to encourage rehearsal for unethical action and also because the lecturer does not want to give the impression that the unethical response is just as good as the more values-driven approach.

D)   Depending on time, a couple of groups may be chosen to play their interpretation in front of the class.

Lecturer guidelines

While the dilemma situation in this exercise applies to the business context, lecturers can customize it to fit other contexts.

The main objective of this exercise is to encourage students to train their "moral muscle" and develop the skills in terms of the action-based approach to ethics and integrity.

When conducing the exercise, the lecturer can draw on the article Giving Voice to Values: How to Counter Rationalizations Rationally (referenced in the Core reading of this Module).

 

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