Personal Code of Ethics: A Living Document

Prepared by: Edward J. VanBeers, II

Elmira College Graduate Student

February, 2001

Through rigorous research and reflection, I have developed a live document to be known as my personal philosophy of adult education, which serves as the basis for my personal code of ethics. I will revisit this code as needed throughout my professional career to ensure its professional relevance and value, and to make any needed modifications as will promote the profession of adult education. The drafting and support of this code will define my place as an educator of adults and is intended not only as my professional guiding reference, but dedicated to the benefit of adult learners, administrators, and colleagues alike.

The basic tenets of my code are:

·        Personal conduct

·        Equal Treatment

·        Respect

·        Lawful living

·        Self-direction

·        Personal commitment

·        Life-long learner

·        Objectivity

·        Ethical practice as the example

·        The “art” of negotiating in good faith

·        Accountability

·        Constructive Dialogue

·        Professional representation

·        Personal Critical Reflection

·        Evaluation & Feedback

·        Values, Morals and Resolutions

·        The live document

In consideration of my personal philosophy, and my personal commitment to educating adults, I offer the following seventeen statements as my guiding practice:

  1.                   I will conduct myself as an ethical person in my private life, and as an ethical professional in my dealings with learners, colleagues and others in which I may encounter in all my undertakings.

  2.                   I will offer to each adult learner the insight of my combined knowledge and developed skills in a manner that is offered and received without prejudice, judgment, or predetermined notions of any adult learner’s ability, disability, religious beliefs, learning style, age, socioeconomic status, social or professional standing, gender, race, and ethnicity.

  3.                   I will conduct myself in a supportive, but professional, manner in all my dealings with adult learners and colleagues, setting the standard and putting forth the highest respect in my professional relationships with others.

  4.                   I will refrain from any and all activities which may be construed as unethical, or which may violate written and unwritten codes of professional and personal conduct, rules, regulations and similar standards of the profession of adult education, and/or the laws of jurisdictions.

  5.                   I will encourage adult learners to participate in the planning and development of their educational experiences to the extent of challenging them to reach their full academic and personal potential, and provide the environment supportive to such self-directed success.

  6.                   I will continue my whole-hearted commitment to developing quality programs, tools, resources and delivery methods to the benefit of adult education.

  7.                   I will continue the development of myself as a lifelong learner, and professional in the field by seeking personal knowledge, skills and the commitment of my own potential as an adult learner throughout my life, and develop productive and effective systems to create an environment for adult learners conducive to reaching their full learning potential.

  8.                   I will practice to the best of my ability the asset of objectivity, and will entertain thoughts of all learners without bias to predetermined beliefs or shadows of conflicting values, morals and/or judgments.

  9.                   I will promote ethical thinking and living among those whose paths I encounter in all walks of life, by conducting myself in such a manner as to set the example.

  10.                  I will in good faith respectfully negotiate with administrators, adult learners, policy-makers, legislators and others involved in creating rules, codes, laws, expenditures, environments, programs and policies that affect the institution of adult education for the benefit of adult learners, and in accordance with my personal philosophy on adult education.

  11.                 I will actively request feedback from learners, colleagues, friends and others on whom my actions may bear consequences in regard to my moral, value and ethical beliefs and practices, and I will hold myself accountable for all my actions.

  12.                 I will promote and seek constructive and open dialogue with administrators, adult learners, policy-makers, legislators, and others involved in the general discipline of education, for the benefit and good of the institution.

  13.                 I will remain conscious that I represent a profession that is the foundation for human life, according to my philosophical beliefs, and I will conduct all my affairs in such a manner that will remain true to my morals and values as a person and as an educator of adults.

  14.                 I will encourage in adult learners and colleagues critical, reflective thinking of innovative means of learning, including program development, enhancement, delivery, and the receipt thereof by learners, to the benefit of adult education.

  15.                I will actively seek feedback from learners and colleagues about the adult education profession, innovative and effective academic tools and experiences, and will make proper adjustments incorporating these advances adding them to my professional toolbox in the interest of delivering the most effective and productive educational experience to adult learners.

  16.                I will, with great care, consideration, and dedication to my values and morals, conduct resolutions to problematic situations and ethical dilemmas, always considering the consequences of my actions in regard to all my dealings and those who may be affected.

  17.                I will review my personal code of ethics periodically, and reflect on my practice as a professional, and strive to make improvements wherever and whenever necessary to the benefit of the profession, the practice, and the adult learners.

Materials Consulted

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-direction in adult learning: Perspectives on theory, research, and practice. New York: Routledge. [On-line]. Available: /sdlindex.html


Collier, G. (1997). Learning moral commitment in higher education? Journal of Moral Education, 26 (No. 1), 73-83.


Flores, N. L. (1999). A code of ethics that binds multicultural communicators: A plan for unifying communication educators and students.  Paper presented at the National Communication Association’s Communication Ethics Credo Conference, Arlington, VA.


Hiemstra, R. (1988). Translating personal values and philosophy into practical action. In R. G. Brockett (Ed.), Ethical issues in adult education. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. [On-line]. Available adapted and updated: /philchap.html


Kidder, R. M. (1995). How good people make tough choices. New York: Fireside.


Siegel, I. H. (2000). Toward developing a universal code of ethics for adult educators. PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning, 9, 39-64.


Verschoor, C. C. (2000). Is your ethics code based on compliance or values? Strategic Finance, 82 (August, Issue 2), 20.

Web Sites Reviewed


The Institute for Global Ethics. Although resource loaded, I found the site a bit commercialized. Provides many tools for teachers, individuals and community members in the practice of ethical living. Visit the site at


National Association for the Education of Young Children. This site was reviewed for its content regarding ethical codes and their relevance to instructors. Visit the site at


The Online Journal of Ethics. I reviewed the issue of “trust” in regard to ethical behavior and practice. Visit the site at



A “live” document is one that involves such important significance to events that are in a continuum that it needs to be periodically reviewed, and possibly updated.



Prepared by: Edward J. VanBeers, II

Return me to your first page

Return me to the Ethics and the Adult Educator page