Theses and Dissertations

An Examination of a Traditional Business Curriculum and Its Effect on Students’ Level of Moral Decision Making

Brian Rothschild, Nova Southeastern University


The questionable decisions of prominent business leaders in major industries in the last two or more decades has called into question the ethical training corporate leaders receive and their ethical decision-making abilities. The research has been extensive but inconclusive as to whether a traditional business curriculum has the effect of developing the moral decision-making abilities of business majors at universities who may end up in industry leadership positions. Therefore, this applied dissertation was designed to contribute to the literature by providing additional information regarding using ethics as a theme throughout a traditional undergraduate business curriculum.

The study included 141 freshman business students and 45 senior business students at a medium-sized private northeastern university. The Defining Issues Test-2 was administered in paper-and-pencil format, and scoring was carried out by the Office for the Study of Ethical Development at the University of Alabama. To analyze the data, descriptive and inferential statistical methods were employed, primarily aiming to ascertain the extent to which participants engaged in reasoning and decision-making practices.

The study found that the postconventional moral reasoning, personal interest, and maintaining norms, as assessed by the Defining Issues Test-2, revealed a significant difference between senior business students and freshman business students. Additionally, the results indicated significant statistical differences in ethical decisionmaking practices between female business students and male business students, both at the senior and freshman levels. Finally, the results did not show statistically significant differences between students reporting either liberal or conservative political ideologies in level of student or female versus male. This research confirms that there is a significant and urgent need for business school deans, faculty, and administrators to work together to create various ways of making ethics a theme throughout their curricula.