Applying Structured Ethical Reflection

My current course is on program evaluation (literally evaluation skills) and I’ll be the first to admit that I thought it would be a absolute crush to get through but in all honesty… the academia is pretty entertaining, especially when I look for ways to apply it to my daily life.

Enter Structured Ethical Reflection (SER; Stevens, Brydon-Miller, & Raider-Roth, 2016). SER is a means to identifying core values to ensure that such values are present and applied throughout theory, pedagogy, and practice. Without identifying such values first, poor planning can overlook certain values that the researcher may hold dear and so violate said values. If we take the view that the point of ethics is to ensure that no harm is done to any participating party (Spaulding, 2013), then where values are violated, harm may result, and thus a violation of values would be unethical. In other words, the ethical part of SER comes from attempting to avoid violating one’s values.

It all sounds very PC, personally, this whole ado to avoid stepping on one’s values. So I thought, until I had the late-night inspiration to apply this to the upcoming year of homeschooling. A few weeks ago, at the beginning of summer, I felt pressured to plan and produce something to substantiate our claim that we’ll be homeschooling, especially as more people ask where the toddler will be this year (it’s really incredible, this assumption we have in society that children belong in school as soon as they are able). Thankfully this verse has been sitting in my heart:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24. NIV.

So I have been much more at peace, knowing that even if we have been led to homeschooling, there is nothing I need to prove with my child. I’ve noticed that as this verse does away with my focus on external expectations, I have felt much more joy in looking forward to the school year. Instead of thinking that I must push my child to a certain level of achievement, I am learning increasingly to simply enjoy the days with her and to see her grow as she will.

The relaxation has also allowed me to feel much more free in playing around with different ideas, and so this is where we return to SER. I decided to apply SER to our coming days of homeschooling and my reflection resulted in this matrix:

I substituted “things I wanted to pass on” for values, although they seem pretty interchangeable to me in this case. I guess some of them could be more explicitly stated. I don’t expect her to show gratitude to God, as 1) she’s young and 2) that’s a decision for her to make, but I do expect myself to model and show her what it means for me to rely on Christ each day. The same sort of understanding goes for things like patience, gentleness, and self-care. The other options are opportunities to provide, which I suppose are done so out of something I value but are participatory, not observatory.

If I were to remain true to the SER method of applying these values to the entire process of homeschooling, I suppose there’d also be a column for research (theory) and planning (pedagogy); right now it’s all practice. But then again, part of the way that I’ve filled in the matrix gives a bit of structure to the planning, although I guess there’s little here about how said values apply to the theory of homeschooling (I could probably say a lot more about unschooling in another post).

Anyway, that wraps up our our ramble into academia for the day. Until next article + midnight musing, adieu.

Featured photo: We recently had the chance to play with a bunny that belonged to a friend of a friend. She was so excited, all she could say was “兔兔, 兔兔!” (Rabbit, rabbit!) for the next five minutes or so.


Spaulding, D. T. (2013). Program evaluation in practice: Core concepts and examples for discussion
and analysis.
John Wiley & Sons.

Stevens, D. M., Brydon-Miller, M., & Raider-Roth, M. (2016). Structured ethical reflection in
practitioner inquiry: Theory, pedagogy, and practice. The Educational Forum, 80(4), 430–443.


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