Preparing the ethical soldier: A grounded theory of how a shared understanding of values contributes to the development of ethical practice of Australian Army Recruits

Wendy De Luca

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

In the modern complex operational Defence setting, ethics education, that encompasses all levels of the organisation from enlistment through to senior leadership, has become critically important. While much of the current military ethics education literature is framed within the context of ‘Professional Military Education’ and leadership development for officers, a review of the literature revealed that there are considerable gaps in terms of military ethics education research of soldiers and Junior Non- Commissioned Officers. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to construct a grounded theory to explain the process of military ethics education of soldiers in the Australian Army Recruit context.

To achieve this, a constructivist grounded theory approach was used, with a particular focus on how the military ethics education curriculum reflects the policy position of the Australian Army and its relationship to the field of professional ethics education. Informants featured the voices of the military organisation through doctrine, as well as 16 semi-structured interviews with Australian and international military and non-military ethics education experts. The grounded theory analysis involved the examination of policies and practices articulated through doctrine, curriculum and other teaching and learning artefacts. Theoretical sensitivity led to the theoretical sampling of interviewees, which further explored emerging concepts and contributed to the development of the grounded theory. The grounded theory of how a shared understanding of values contributes to the development of ethical practice of Australian Army Recruits emerged from the analysis. The core category of understanding values was co-constructed with the informants to explain how the phases of the basic social process interrelate, as the inculcation of Army values was a significant focus of the Army’s doctrine and curriculum. Three phases were constructed to conceptualise the basic social process of ethics education for Army Recruits: these being driving training, engaging learners, and shaping behaviour.

The study revealed how policy drives training, and how training impacts upon the development of soldiers’ ethical behaviour. This substantive grounded theory has implications for policy, training managers and training developers, as key findings demonstrated that meaningful reforms to policy, curriculum and pedagogical practices are required to support learning that is relevant to soldiers’ careers in the 21st century. A recommendation arising from this study is that a values-based Army Code of Ethics be introduced as a vehicle for the reform of policy and future development of curriculum.

The study provided a perspective that is uniquely focused on the ethics education of Australian soldiers, and significantly contributes to the literature specific to soldier military ethics education in Australia. The study contributes to the scholarship of military ethics education from a sociological perspective by developing new knowledge which has resonance across the Australian Defence Force and internationally, as well as being transferable to other professional ethics education contexts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Kennan, Mary Anne, Principal Supervisor
  • Anderson, Judith, Co-Supervisor
  • South, Daryl, Co-Supervisor
Award date07 Apr 2022
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2022

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