The assessment of differing presentation stimuli on professional ethics judgments of counselors-in-training

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Richard E. Pearson


Presentation stimuli, Ethics, Counselors-in-training

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


The researcher investigated the impact which three presentation stimuli had on the professional ethics judgments of graduate counseling students. A test of ethical discrimination [based on the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA), American Psychological Association (APA), and Association of Social Workers (ASW)] was used. The test was administered to graduate counseling students who were in the final weeks of their graduate courses in the ethics of counseling.

In particular, research participants (N = 60) were secured from four (4) colleges/universities. Students were enrolled in master's-level counseling ethics courses. They were randomly assigned into one of three groups: Pencil & Paper, Video, and Role Play. Participants in each group were given the same test of ethical discrimination, but took the test under varying circumstances. The Pencil & Paper group was given a straightforward test, as might typically be experienced in an ethics course. The Video group took the same test, but did so in the context of seeing ethical dilemmas portrayed in a video generated specifically for the present study. The Role Play group took the same test, but did so in the context of role playing with a trained actress--acting out the same scenario that the Video group observed on the video tape.

The results showed a significant difference in mean scores between the Video and Role Play groups at the p < .10 level. Specifically, the Role Play group made the most errors, followed by the Pencil & Paper group, while the Video group made the fewest errors in ethical discrimination.

Thus, a curvilinear relationship emerged relative to cognitive knowledge of counseling ethics and application of that knowledge in real-to-life situations. Making accurate ethical decisions may be influenced by the context in which decisions are made. Of particular note is that students may experience a pressure-of-the moment phenomenon that adversely affects acting correctly on the information they have internalized.


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