Teaching Ethics in Planning

In the current professional planning climate, understanding one’s ethical responsibility has never been more important — or more interesting to consider.

“Planners have an obligation to look out for the public interest,” says Bonnie Johnson, AICP, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Kansas’ Urban Planning Program. “But what is in the public interest may not always be easy to determine. Using the AICP Code of Ethics in the classroom can connect students to what it means to be a planner, how to deal with politics, and how to act in day-to-day activities.”

“It is an important goal of the AICP Commission to provide resources to our academic partners,” AICP Commissioner Denise Harris said. “The rubric is a roadmap to begin illuminating and interesting conversations on the topic of ethics with students. Many practicing planners encounter difficult decision points in their careers for which the AICP Code of Ethics provides foundational ideas to guide them.”

Now, a new resource is available to instructors who are interested in exploring the topic of ethics with planning students. The AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Training Rubric was prepared by the AICP Ethics Committee as a reference guide to the components of an ethics discussion in the planning world.

Structured as a traditional teaching rubric, the document is divided into six teaching modules:

  1. Definitions
  2. History of Planning Ethics
  3. Ethical Principles in Planning
  4. Contents of the AICP Code of Ethics
  5. Ethics Cases of the Year
  6. Discussion

The final resources section includes a list of books and journal articles on planning ethics, as well as a sample teaching module on AICP’s annual “Ethics Cases of the Year.” The rubric provides flexibility by providing information that may be used for one class, several classes, or for an entire semester, depending on the desires of the professor and the planning program and needs of their students.

The AICP Ethics Committee also hopes that instructors will share their own resources, lesson plans, and case studies on this topic to improve the teaching rubric. It has been shared with accredited planning programs via the Planning Accreditation Board, and members of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

APA chapters and Professional Development Officers can bring this topic to life by collaborating with academic programs to identify and serve as guest speakers on the topic of planning ethics.

The AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Training Rubric and other ethics resources may be found here.


January 24, 2019