Table of Contents

A Guide to Professional Conduct in the Field of Educational Communications and Technology




A Historical Perspective

A Code of Professional Ethics

A Discussion of the Principles of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics

Suggestions for Using This Book

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

Enforcement of the AECT Code of Professional Ethics

Resources and Information of Professional Ethics

Section 2: A Historical Perspective

The current Code of Professional Ethics of the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) is closely intertwined with the history of the organization. What is now AECT began in 1923 as a division of the National Education Association (NEA), the Department of Audiovisual Instruction (DAVI). Thus, in 1998, AECT celebrated its 75th anniversary.

When the name changed from DAVI to AECT in 1971 (Saettler, 1990, p. 502), the officers of the new association were quick to recognize that a code of professional ethics was an important element for professional standing. In a landmark article written in 1952, Dr. James Finn of the University of Southern California noted that one essential element of a profession was "a series of standards and a statement of ethics which is enforceable" (Finn, 1952, p. 232). While discussing the elements that mark a profession, he explained:

The fifth measuring point, ethics, standards and their enforcement, is the function of the fourth, a strong association. Statements of ethics and publications of standards are developed by professional organizations. Audiovisual personnel, as members of the teacher profession, are subject to the ethics of the profession. As yet, nothing has been done to develop a separate code of ethics for the audio-visual movement. (Finn, 1952, in Ely & Plomp, 1996, p. 236) As indicated by an editorial in 1970 by Dr. Howard Hitchens, Jr., an important contributor to DAVI and later national executive director of AECT, the Professional Ethics Committee of that year stated in its report: A professional code of ethics is usually considered to be a system of self-discipline which regulates the professional practices and conduct of its members in relationship with clients, colleagues and the public. Thus, a professional code should provide occupational ground rules for individual practitioners which protect both the public and the practitioner in pursuit of his work....

The increasing number and complexity of situations arising from new technology make it imperative that DAVI make quite clear to its members, to publishers and to the public in general the ethical standards expected of our profession. (Hitchens, 1970, p. 120)

Dr. Hitchens goes on to report that: DAVI's Professional Ethics Committee has strongly recommended that our membership personally and individually adopt the National Education Association's Code of Ethics of the Education Profession, and the Board of Directors of DAVI one and one-half years ago unanimously accepted that Code of Ethics for our professional group." The concluding paragraph calls for steps to be taken that are handled more completely in this publication than at any time previously in the Association: Does our field, then, satisfy the criterion of having a standard and a code of ethics to which we can subscribe? I believe we do, even though the job is still unfinished and will perhaps ever remain so. However, each of us should direct his efforts toward the further definition of our professional standards and our professional code of ethics. This is perhaps more appropriate for our field than for any other sector, for we have a unique interest in change. (Hitchens, 1970, p. 120)

The AECT Code of Professional Ethics has been changed in minor ways since the early 1970s, but it very closely resembles the past and current code of the National Education Association. Of the 16 ethical statements in the 1975 NEA Code in use today, 10 items match closely with AECT's in content, and some are nearly identical. Some implications from the history of the ethical code are (1) it has been strongly influenced by educators' values; (2) enforcement has been more a matter of helping people understand and conform to ethical standards than of hauling them in for formal hearings after infractions occur. This publication, like the columns in TechTrends that preceded it, have continued that approach.


Finn, James. (1952). Professionalizing the audio-visual field. Audiovisual communication review 1(1), S18. Reprinted in Donald P. Ely & Tjeerd Plomp (Eds.). Classic writings on instructional technology (pp. 231-241). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited (1996).

Hitchens, Howard, Jr. (1970). Six characteristics in search of a profession: Two. Audiovisual Instruction, 15:4 (April), 120.

National Education Association (1975). Code of ethics of the education profession. [Part of the NEA Home Page on the World Wide Web]. Washington, DC: Author: Retrieved May 8, 1998, from the World Wide Web: .

Saettler, Paul. (1990). The evolution of American educational technology. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Saettler, Paul. (1998). Antecedents, origins, and theoretical evolution of AECT. TechTrends, 43:1 (Jan./Feb.), 51-57.

J. Nicholls Eastmond, Jr.
Professor of Instructional Technology
Utah State University

Updated January 21, 2008
Copyright © 2001,
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology

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