Thinking through ethics: The processes of ethical decision-making by novice and expert American Sign Language interpreters
In the course of their work, sign language interpreters are faced with ethical dilemmas that require prioritizing competing moral beliefs and views on professional practice. There are several decision-making models, however, little research has been done on how sign language interpreters learn to identify and make ethical decisions. Through surveys and interviews on ethical decision-making, this study investigates how expert and novice interpreters discuss their ethical decision-making processes and prioritize prima facie duties, also called meta-ethical principles (Ross 2001). The survey participants included 225 novice interpreters who have three or fewer years experience as a nationally certified interpreter, and 168 expert interpreters who have ten or more years as a certified interpreter. Three novice and three expert interpreters were chosen to participate in the face-to-face interviews. The findings indicate that there are similarities among, and differences between, the two groups. The findings show that both novices and experts similarly prioritize the prima facie duty of ‘fidelity’ and adhere to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct's tenet of ‘professional conduct.’ The variability between the groups indicate that novice interpreters’ responses include citing their professional ethical code, rubric decision-making guidelines, and using low-context discourse to analyze individual-focused responses. Expert interpreters, conversely, drew upon tacit knowledge built upon a foundation of Code of Professional Conduct, used high-context discourse to develop a collective-focused response.