13 The Personal Code of Ethics

Annette Holba

This is a general description of the Personal Code of Ethics assignment in CM4905. Each semester, the description might be adjusted in some way by individual instructors but this a general picture of what the assignment looks like. It is designed to encourage you to contemplate more deeply about who you are and how you want to be in the world. Sometimes, during class, it is helpful to provide students opportunities to contemplate and do some contemplative writing because it is something we often do not do or we do not do it in the context of a course assignment. Contemplation/deep thinking simply takes practice.

Personal Code of Ethics: Senior Seminar

There are two sections in the development of your personal code of ethics. These sections are:

Section #1 – Thinking/Journaling and Section #2 Writing/Explaining.

Section #1 Thinking/Journaling                                         

The thinking/journaling phase is based on thinking and stream of consciousness writing as you encounter specific prompts. As you read the prompt, write what comes into your mind and allow your thinking to evolve and associate with other thoughts as you contemplate the prompts. When you turn in phase 1, even though this is a free style of writing, there should be complete sentences and generally appropriate grammar and spelling. Think, reflect, write. Take your time, give yourself enough time to provide details, description, and examples.


  • Who am I? (what descriptors would you use?)
  • How would a friend describe me? (is this accurate? Why or why not?)
  • How would a non-friend describe me? (is this accurate? Why or why not?)
  • What traits do I exemplify? (this can be in a list or narrative)
  • What environments concern my life? (this includes public, private, social, environmental, organizations, etc.) Identify at least five different environments.
  • What do I believe? (this should include personal beliefs or private beliefs and can be about faith, reason, justice, or anything—what are the beliefs that inform how you live your life?)
  • Why do I have these beliefs? (this can include aspects from social, economic, psychological, cultural, historical, or spiritual reasons)

Phase 2 Writing/Journaling phase                         

Section #2 Writing/Journaling is the first step in the formal documentation of your personal code of ethics. This stage requires: 1) a purpose statement, and 2) “I will” statements that are for your communication actions and behaviors. (There should be at least 10 “I will” statements with explanations) After each “I will” statement, explain your reasoning directly from your phase 1 thinking/writing phase or how your thinking has evolved.

Typically, this assignment is discussed in class after students learn about the different ethical lenses for thinking and reasoning (virtue, deontology, consequentialist, and dialogic). You might also receive time in class to start this process of thinking and writing/journaling. The emphasis is really on giving yourself enough time to do this assignment slowly and thoughtfully.


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