11th Annual Conference: Character and Virtues in Professional Practice

Efforts to encourage virtue face significant practical obstacles. This presentation will begin by suggesting that intentional efforts at virtue enhancement are targeting what I am calling steadfast virtue, the tendency to make virtuous choices in normal life even when the situation encourages non-virtuous choices. I will then enumerate various factors in our normal lives, including work lives, that undermine the potential for achieving steadfast virtue. I will finish by suggesting advocates of a more virtuous society should move beyond delimited virtue training to call for broad changes in social norms.

For philosopher David Carr, a professional practice emphasizes how practitioners develop a ‘feel for the game’ or comfort zone to perceive, feel and act in accordance with the practice. Perhaps this is most directly obvious in military practices where communal belonging has to be balanced with individual character for the benefit of society. In this paper, interdisciplinary research with the British Army is used to illustrate how the development of character in the early years, though messy and protracted, may lead to ownership of professional practice capable of guarding it against ethical violations and advancing rather than reproducing the practice.


Dr Jameel will outline reflections from her work as a medical practitioner, medical educator and her empirical PhD work which looked at enacted Phronesis (Practical Wisdom) in Medicine. She will suggest that the current educational and ethical frameworks that underpin healthcare delivery are unhelpful when it comes to nurturing professionalism and practical wisdom, both dependant on a moral orientation. She will then suggest that to strive to be a ‘noble profession’ we need to refocus our attention on character education and developing professional virtues.

This paper develops a virtue-account of legal reasoning which significantly differs from standard, principle-based, theories. A virtue approach to legal reasoning highlights the relevance of the particulars to sound legal decision-making, brings to light the perceptual and affective dimensions of legal argument, and vindicates the relevance of description and specification to legal reasoning. After examining the central features of the theory, the paper proposes a taxonomy of the main character traits that legal decision-makers need to possess to successfully engage in legal reasoning. The paper concludes by discussing an array of strategies in legal education, institutional design, and legal culture that can be put in place to work virtue in legal decision-making.

Current accounts of parental virtues (McDougal and Charles) understand flourishing in terms of its beneficial consequences for the child and for the community. I will argue that this is a misrepresentation of the Aristotelian understanding of flourishing. I will suggest instead that choice is a central notion in the eudaimon life and I will make some suggestions as to how we should understand parental virtues in light of this and in light of the distinctive nature of parental love. 

This paper explores professional ethical wisdom in the face of new challenges, not necessarily covered by existing rules/procedures. This happened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and occurs during other emergencies/crises, when professionals use their own judgement more than in ‘normal’ circumstances. This may be experienced as an unwanted/unfamiliar burden, or a liberation from unnecessary bureaucracy. What does it mean to exercise professional ethical wisdom in these discretionary spaces? Is professional ethical wisdom a useful concept and practice? How does it relate to recent understandings of phronesis by the Jubilee Centre? How can we nurture it in social professionals? 

Phronesis is the core DNA of mature virtue, vital to ethical decision-making and leadership. In a changing educational landscape, how do leaders learn to stay agile and practice collective phronesis? This paper presents The Practical Wisdom Framework™, an approach to shared decision-making that equips leaders and their teams to be intentional about putting individual and collective flourishing at the heart of leadership. It distills instructive insights from one school team’s experience using the PWF to guide collegial reflection and to harness the formative opportunities present in the real time challenges and problems they navigate daily, from operations to crisis management.  

Military healthcare professionals (MHCP) answer to two masters – the professional bodies of their chosen healthcare specialty and the ‘profession of arms’. This, combined with the ethical and moral challenges deployed MHCP face daily, often leads to a clash between the ethical discussions held in the classroom and the harsh realities of applied ethics ‘in the field’. Their peculiar position, unique perspective, and practical exposure to these circumstances engenders a professional ethics particular to the MHCP; popularly referred to as ‘Military Medical Ethics’. The contrast with the morality and professional ethics of their civilian practice, to me, could not be clearer.

Character will play a pivotal role in the future of the rapidly changing workplace. The Good Project (TGP) has researched the world of work for over 25 years and built upon this knowledge to create a curriculum for secondary school students. This mixed-methods study draws upon data from a one-year pilot of the curriculum to understand how students experienced ethics curricula prior to TGP lessons and if students changed their understanding of work-related virtues after a year engaging with the curriculum. Research is ongoing: we anticipate this work will inform teaching of professional ethics and virtues needed for successful work.

Beginning in the fall of 2022, philosophers, theologians, and psychologists from 6 Jesuit Catholic universities in the United States will embark upon a 3 year collaborative initiative known as the Cura Psychologia Project with the goal of reorienting the psychological sciences toward considerations of moral, intellectual, and civic character. The purpose of this presentation is to describe the nature of the Project, its goals for the reformation of psychology departments and training institutes, and its distinctions from existing movements such as that of Positive Psychology.

This paper explores the limitations of applying phronesis as an individualised character trait to the nursing profession by drawing, in part, on a recent ethnographic study of phronesis with the medical profession. Dialogical learning, stimulated by the collective phronesis and virtue continua research findings conveyed in film series and app format led to advancement in medical ethical decision making. The paper argues that the same could be achieved for the nursing profession, which is contra to the individualised notion of phronesis and learning emerging in recent literature

Most professionals work within institutions, but institutional and professional goals seldom align perfectly. To achieve their goals, institutions sometimes use the professionals’ role virtues against them. For example, schools can get away with underpaying and overworking teachers, and underfunding classrooms because teachers care for, and thus sacrifice for their students. In general, institutions count on the professionals’ dedication and compassion to keep serving their clients despite insufficient resources. Other professional virtues enable the exploitation of professionals, too. Fully virtuous professionals refuse to allow their professional virtues to be hijacked. Thus, the role virtues of professionals include virtues of resistance.

We have been teaching character integration in an innovation project development program for 5 years. Participants learn and apply 10 Innovation skillsets, including character strengthening exercises, in developing their projects. Two years ago, 76% of past team members reported using the techniques they learned on character strength integration in other parts of their work or study. This last year, we used the cardinal virtues to explore further how team members were developing their own character strengths during their year-long projects. Using relatable language to communicate these virtues, we summarize the impactful stories of their journeys to becoming the “good physician.”

Military officers are expected to be moral role models, and therefore must be particularly self-aware of areas for moral growth. One area for self-evaluation and growth is moral strength, that is, the capacity and motivation to act morally, consisting of four parts: ownership, efficacy, courage, and duty orientation. This project evaluated which part of moral strength soon-to-be commissioned Army officers self-indicate were lacking and found moral courage to be the most common weakness. We discuss that strengthening moral courage is due even for these almost-officers and evaluate the merits of developing a strengthening program.

This session will explore how and why Aristotelian civic friendship has become a fruitful arena where virtue is cultivated in secondary schools. We will analyze case studies of initiatives at Montrose School that intentionally foster virtue through civic friendships. Each of these case studies will reveal how the fostering of phronesis in ethical decision making in schools can translate successfully into the workplace.

The teacher as professor, promises to be faithful to a vocation of service that supposes a moral commitment and a testimony of the truth and the good. The educational community expects its teachers to possess certain virtues as an expression of this moral commitment. These virtues are sometimes explicit but not always. They can be inferred from the competencies and virtues that the institution aims to achieve for its students. We offer a case: the student competency profile developed at the Francisco de Vitoria University where, from the mission of the university, we can infer the competencies and virtues of the teacher and proposals for teacher training in this aspect.

Select principles of character and virtues education are infused into undergraduate curricular activities. Combined with mentored field experiences and internships, these support internalization of ethical codes and professional identity. The practicum experiences support skill building and professionalism, exploration of real-life roles, with responsibilities that resemble future careers. The virtue-related decision-making skills reflect the formal ethical guidelines of future professions.  The teaching/learning environment elicits metacognition in the completion of assignments. Combined with practical experiences, the educational path solidifies professional ethical identity. Building firm foundations for the later implementation of professional ethics, is facilitated with a character and virtues-based education.

In the early days of the pandemic, we began to research how medical practitioners make decisions in morally ambiguous cases. We found that a majority of participants drew directly on the norms and values of their institutions to help them make difficult decisions. This finding was surprising given that appeals to institutional norms were often made by practitioners who personally disagreed with given norms. Still, despite personal dissent, institutional frameworks still aided practitioners in moral reasoning. In this paper, we begin with this empirical observation to develop a brief argument about institutions as keepers of traditions of moral reason.

Centering character and equity through the practice of Principled Innovation (PI) in our large-scale redesign of teacher and leader preparation is introducing cohorts of faculty and future educators to the importance of character in our decision-making. The faculty at Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College engage in Communities of Practice (CoPs) where they share their experiences and learn from each other’s reflections, feedback and ideas. PI has played a prominent role in faculty CoPs through the integration of PI resources, tools and reflection questions that prompt inquiry and dialogue, supporting the cultivation of knowledge, reasoning and action around character assets and practices.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between civic virtue, military ethics, and nationalism. I argue that civic virtue is especially relevant to military ethics in a political climate of rising nationalism. I narrowly define nationalism as an ideology that represents, in the words of Hannah Arendt, “the perversion of the state into an instrument of the nation.” At times, the military has been passive or even complicit in this perversion of the state. However, a military force that emphasizes civic virtue would not be a mere tool of obedience to an ultra-nationalist government.

There is a growing conversation around the need for professional ethics at American universities. Professional policies, rules, and codes of conduct, however necessary, do not seem wholly adequate to create a vibrant moral culture in university communities. Beginning with Aristotle’s account, friendship offers a valuable foundation to consider university professional ethics as a “method” of moral education. As educators in a Catholic university, we build upon Aristotle’s account of friendship with the account of friendship found in the Gospel of John and the practice of Christian friendship among the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Aristotle distinguishes between Theoria: discovering truth through enquiry (episteme); Praxis: achieving the good through action (phronesis), and Poesis: producing things (techné). ‘Art’ was then understood as skill in manufacture. Later, fine art and craft, were distinguished with the former aimed at the production of objects valuable not practically but aesthetically. More recently art has been reoriented towards ideas and politics. This suggests three models of the art educator and their associated qualities: 1) the Exemplar possessed of practical skills, understanding and judgement; 2) The Master having erudition and discrimination and 3) The Advocate Facilitator socially engaged and committed to empowerment.

Where is the space for professional wisdom within online relationship-based work with young people? Mid- and post-pandemic there appears to be a shift towards greater use of online professional encounters mediated by risk-averse policies. This paper will present the findings of a systematic literature review of 90 articles from the past ten years, exploring dominant practices in the developing and maintaining of relationships with young people online. Recognising unique safeguarding concerns around the use of intimate spaces (e.g. bedrooms) and greater informality, this paper will present practitioner concerns and seek young people’s voices in the midst of this discussion.

Developing strong character, or virtue, is essential for military personnel as members of the Profession of Arms. Despite going to great lengths training, indoctrinating, and administering oaths of service, ethical lapses continue with organizational responses including formal reprimands and ever-longer policies bureaucratizing appropriate behaviour. This paper argues such actions shift agency away from the individual to the penal and offers new curriculum and assessment of US Airmen’s development of practical wisdom through ethical decision-making frameworks addressing ethical dilemmas. Thus, rather than viewing ethics as a top-down, deterrent endeavour, it offers ethics as an ongoing, aspirational process rooted in personal development.

Graduate students have little to no preparation for their roles as teachers of undergraduates. Where such preparation exists, it is instrumental, focusing on skills to help students achieve disciplinary learning outcomes. This paper presents a formative approach to doctoral teacher education, based on a program called “Teaching on Purpose,” which aims to cultivate doctoral students’ character as educators, with a view towards helping undergraduates lead lives of meaning and purpose. The paper proposes the need for and strategies to cultivate the overlooked virtue of earnestness and illustrates the abstract claim that it, like all virtues, is “situated.”

In the past years there was an intense discussion about discriminatory practices in police work. Against this background, this contribution presents an approach and educational format concerning (racial) discrimination developed for German Police Officers. It’s based on the idea that dialogue with those affected by discriminatory police practices may lead to the formation of the professional virtue of valuing and encountering others’ perspectives. Further, this approach’s relation to human rights as basis of justification of police action will be discussed. The resulting challenges for developing educational formats for Police Officers will be pointed out.

Recent educational researchers have advocated Aristotelian-inspired phronesis as an important aspect of teacher training. We think this turn to phronesis is a good thing. However, we argue that many of the prior attempts to describe a “phronetic” approach to teacher education have mis-characterized what phronesis is and why it is important for teacher education. In this paper, (1) we establish a more accurate understanding of phronesis, highlighting the need for the development of the moral component of phronesis, and (2) we offer a way that the moral component could be developed in teacher education programs. To achieve the first objective, we examine Aristotle’s theory of phronesis in some detail in order to establish a proper understanding of it. To achieve the second objective, we look to Aristotle’s supposed philosophical rival, Plato, who offers a method of accelerating the moral habituation process, which might allow for the moral component of phronesis to develop more quickly.

There is a currently a strong interest in school-based character education in Austria. Within a Mixed Methods study, we are investigating Austrian teachers’ beliefs about character education. In the paper, we will provide some insights into the results of the qualitative strand of the project. Interviewees see character education as an important task for schools. They see the pressure to perform well in examinations as a reason why explicit character education is often neglected. Most interviewees feel that they have not been adequately prepared to teach character. Results are similar to those of earlier studies conducted within the Jubilee Center.

Virtue jurisprudence is on the rise in legal theory but must consider the relevance of the rule of law and eventually merge with it. We shall address the nature and identification of some legal virtues, mainly insisting on the judicial ones. We shall also dwell with some empirical detail into the ‘dark side of the legal profession’, aiming to track the main features of a legal ethos to be promoted both for practitioners and for citizens. Mapping out such an ethos means not only tackling major theoretical contributions such as Solum’s, Kronman’s and Dworkin’s, but also testing their ideal models against what has emerged as ’the dark side’. The ‘reasonable and responsible’ legal agent that will emerge will show the necessity of going beyond Weber’s ‘formal-legal rationality’.

According to news framing theory, emphasizing or deemphasizing features of a situation in a news report can shape audiences’ perception and interpretation of that situation. While journalism curricula contain ethical principles of unbiased reporting, the effect of journalists’ authorial choices on the perceptual dimension of practical wisdom in audiences remains unexplored. This paper (a) proposes a model of news media’s effect on the practical wisdom development of audiences, and (b) suggests a tool for integrating practical wisdom into the media ethics component of journalism education: phronesis practicums that train journalism students to identify competing morally relevant features of situations

Overcoming the limits of ethical legalism in the professional sphere, means considering the person as free. From a psychological and philosophical approach, this paper theoretically argue the hypothesis that emotions may be expanded and improved if habits take part in the emotional processing. We explain that habits improve and expand the emotional world because they make way for superior cognitive processes, connect the individual to reality, expand the impetus of human tendency, and enable selfless “bonding” between people. We conclude that an educated emotion becomes a reliable emotional preference to make moral decisions and propose that considering the habit as mere behaviour, should include the emotional and the cognitive.

The Ethics and the Professions Programs at the University of Portland (USA) tap into the life experiences of individuals and organizations within the local community to create pathways for pre-professional students to have previews of coming attractions for some of the moral moments that occur in the professional world of work. These include an innovative summer internship experience and a dynamic storytelling protocol for discussing ethical decision making. The practical engagements generate opportunities for pre-professionals and professionals alike to grow in personal character and vocational understanding as they reflect on the working world and the pursuit of a coherent morality.

This article aims to position curiosity as a significant virtue in the contexts of professional media production, of media education, and of responsible media consumption. It provides an explication of the concept, from pre-Aristotelian roots and its treatment by Augustine and Aquinas, to the development of “need for cognition” (NFC) as a variable in social psychology and its role in media consumption patterns.  This project suggests how media ethics scholars might explore its relation to media consumption, and how journalists and media educators might harness strategies to cultivate the virtue of curiosity among audiences and students.

Professional Ethics what can it be? Either there is a professional ethics in which case the ethics drops out or there is professional ethics in which case the profession drops out. Professional ethics is encompassed by ethics. Williams’ point about professional dispositions is important and important for nursing but they have possibly become in his words a myth. The connection between dispositions and ethics is I think contingent. There is no professional nursing ethics though there are professional norms as a nursing standpoint. Perhaps sometimes, following Dorsey, one can act in a permissible though immoral way as a nurse.

We live in a moment of historical rupture marked by irreconcilable cultural conflicts over moral authority, what we have called ‘culture wars’. Late modernity has left societal leaders in most sectors with no public ethics to which to appeal for consensus or even debate. The resulting nihilism seeks coercive power and instills deep public suspicion. This cultural problem requires virtuous leaders from major professions to reject nihilism and create alternative cultural economies of human flourishing. This paper distils insights from our 2012-2018 nine-sector study which contextualized virtues and vices, and pointed to models for leaders to transform their sectors.

In this presentation, I’ll argue that virtue ethics is the most appropriate ethical approach to the professional practice of Western classical music. I’ll focus on two main aspects of phronesis in this practice: in the act of score interpretation and as a guide to the whole musical career as a vocation. After hinting at the main issues of the interpretation of musical scores, I’ll illustrate the function of phronesis. Finally, I’ll claim that the musical dimension is a privileged space for the exercise of phronetic conduct and that musical expertise fosters the acquisition of ethical expertise in general

What is the role of character and virtues in professional practice in the profession you represent and what work are you doing to foreground virtuous professional practice? An Expert Discussion

with Tina Russell

Professional Conduct and Ethics Lead, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Recently, writer Simon Head has coined the term “digital Taylorism” to refer to the use of computers to enforce “best practice” not just in heavy industry – Frederick Taylor’s original focus – but across the service sector. I argue that we should be worried about this development, for two reasons. First, human decision-making cannot always be replicated by algorithms. Second, human decision-making is not just a means to the production of correct outcomes, as proponents of automation assume; it is an expression of certain qualities of mind and character. Strip workers of these qualities, and you take away the foundation of their professional dignity.


In my presentation, I will talk about judicial wisdom as a fundamental virtue in the jurisprudence virtue theory. I will present the application of virtue ethics to jurisprudence as the golden mean between judicial passivism and activism. There are two main important approaches to adjudication. One is connected with legal formalism and is accused of passivism, which is particularly undesirable in very complex situations or when dealing with bad laws. The other approach is linked with consequentialism and is accused of undermining legal certainty and introducing arbitration to adjudication. In my presentation, I will discuss the third option, which is the application of virtue ethics.

Given the people professions are undoubtedly moral endeavours and the failing of existing professional standards in providing sufficient guidance for professionals when faced with complex context-specific dilemmas in their work, this paper presents the findings of an interdisciplinary project designed to challenge how professionalism is currently perceived and taught on professional programmes. The paper encourages reflection through a moral lens when considering how to best nurture this crucial aspect of personal and professional development and explores how the development and implementation of deliberate and explicit reflection opportunities have the potential to extend and refine the practical wisdom of novice professionals.

Integrity is a virtue often invoked in professional contexts. But what is it? And why does it matter? I argue that upholding the standards of one’s profession is only part of it. For the evolution of a profession relies on initiative from its members. Professional integrity is the quality that directs one’s initiative towards improving the profession. It is a specific application of ethical integrity: driven by a commitment to worthwhile and fulfilling lives, it combines one’s own ethical ideas with receptivity to the ethical ideas of fellow professionals. Fostering this virtue would help organisations respond well to changing circumstances.

The potential of Catholic teaching for virtue-based professional ethics is explained theoretically and a practical concept that has been tried and tested for years shows how students acquire ethics in every lecture at university in order to shape the world humanely for the good of all. In concrete terms, it is explained how students are strengthened for their professional context after such a course of study, how effectively they have internalised virtuous attitudes and role models in order to create learning and working spaces right at the beginning of professional practice in which other people can develop and acquire virtues.

Schools remain the most consistent formative institution for adolescents, and character educators have a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the teaching profession with aims that extend to the broader needs of adolescents in transition to adulthood. One variable consistently correlated to improve adolescent flourishing is the presence of a mentor or nonparent caring adult. Through case studies of moral dilemmas shared in mentoring conversations, I will demonstrate how deliberation through Aristotle’s framework for friendships of inequality help bridge the gap in adolescent moral development and support growth in practical wisdom while preparing adolescents for a social life marked by civic friendship. 

All public sector workers, every contact and every action by those actors can make a difference to how those services are viewed. In policing, this has a wider impact on compliance with the law and police legitimacy. Significant changes were made to recruitment routes into policing in 2020. These changes fundamentally revised police officer training with many new recruits now attending university for at least part of their training. This paper will discuss a recent qualitative, longitudinal study that was undertaken in a UK Police force and the implications for policing, criminal justice and ethical training as a whole cross-sector.

This paper focuses on character and virtues within the context of professional police practice. We argue that currently, the ethical dimensions of police work feature insufficiently in professional police debates, at a time when the contested nature of police work becomes ever more evident. The paper applies a virtue lens, drawing specifically upon MacIntyre’s notion of a practice, to redress this shortcoming. We identify and discuss opportunities to develop reflective, ethical practice as a routine, embedded approach to learning and development within policing through continuous professional development across all aspects of police work.