International Journal of Ethics Education

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 125–145 | Cite as

Exploring the relationship between humility and the virtues: toward improving the effectiveness of ethics education

  • Surendra Arjoon
  • Meena RambocasEmail author


We define humility as the ability to realistically assess one’s limitations and strengths. Unlike other moral virtues, humility has been found distinctively difficult to acquire. Our paper makes two significant contributions. Although the role and importance of humility have been clearly established in the literature, our paper is the first to empirically test a theoretically-posited inter-relationship between humility and the moral virtues. Our paper empirically tests this relationship, specifically between humility and the social virtues with the personal virtues acting as a mediator. The second contribution of our paper is to present the design and delivery of a humility-embedded pedagogical teaching and learning approach using a professional ethics course. Essentially, we are suggesting a methodology that make ethics education more effective. We follow Sims and Felton (Journal of Business Ethics 63 (3): 297–312, 2006) analytical framework that incorporates targeted learning outcomes, environment, processes, and experience facilitated through a student-led pedagogical approach. We utilize the concept of “critical consciousness”, developed by Jagger and Volkman (The International Journal of Management Education 12 (2): 177–185, 2013), which is captured through the mechanisms of a Student Learning Portfolio and a Process-Oriented-Guided-Enquiry approach. Both these mechanisms incorporate critical self-reflection and the application of knowledge derived from experience. Our findings have significant implications for the effective teaching of ethics, and more generally for business and management education.


Teaching ethics Personal virtues Social virtues Humility Critical consciousness Student learning portfolio 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest statement

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management Studies/Arthur Lok Jack Global School of BusinessThe University of the West Indies (St. Augustine Campus)St AugustineTrinidad and Tobago
  2. 2.Department of Management StudiesThe University of the West Indies (St. Augustine Campus)St AugustineTrinidad and Tobago

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