Do ethics classes teach ethics?

Howard J. Curzer, Sabrina Sattler, Devin G. Dupree, K. Rachelle Smith-Genthôs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The ethics assessment industry is currently dominated by the second version of the Defining Issues Test (DIT2). In this article, we describe an alternative assessment instrument called the Sphere-Specific Moral Reasoning and Theory Survey (SMARTS), which measures the respondent's level of moral development in several respects. We describe eight difficulties that an instrument must overcome in order to assess ethics classes successfully. We argue that the DIT2 fails to solve these problems, and that the SMARTS succeeds. The SMARTS was administered as pre-test and post-test during several semesters to ethics and non-ethics classes. Ethics students improved significantly more than non-ethics students in both moral theory choice and moral reasoning. Thus, ethics classes do indeed teach ethics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-382
Number of pages17
JournalTheory and Research in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2014


  • DIT
  • ethics assessment
  • moral development
  • moral reasoning
  • moral theory


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