Effective Decisions

Students demonstrate the ability to the effectiveness of their choices. Students:

  • believe that an effective decision accomplishes the desired result without causing unintended and undesirable consequences; and
  • believe that an effective decision accomplishes the desired result with the least amount of time and resources (i.e., it is efficient).
Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • I realize that my behavior and the choices I make affect others.
  • I can make the best decisions if I consider all the options carefully and thoughtfully.
  • Learning how to make a variety of choices will enhance the outcomes of my actions.
  • When confronted with an ethical dilemma, I am able to make a decision that ensures my actions are rational, ethical, and effective.
  • Decisions that have the potential for monumental consequences are determined by what will produce the best possible result
  • In a story or historical document see where one’s behavior or action taken is a result of a choice that was made.
  • Use literary works or historical documents to discuss if the choices made were rational or rationalizations.
  • Explain and illustrate how different decisions can lead to alternative outcomes. 
  • Review the actions of celebrities who are notorious in the press for behaving badly, and create the best possible result mind maps for how things could have turned out. 
  • Demonstrate to students how to gather and analyze information. 
  • Journal as to how responsible decision–making affects interpersonal and group relationships.
  • Interview someone you think displays ethical actions.

Ethical Decision–Making

Learning Objective: To provide an understanding of priorities, questioning, ranking, and what constitutes a good decision


  • Choose a decision–making scenario to analyze and have students apply a decision–making model to the scenario. Ask students to: 
    • State the nature of the problem or dilemma
    • List possible alternatives
    • Discuss the positive and negative consequences of each alternative and rank the alternatives. 
  • Have each student write a scenario in which a student is faced with a situation requiring a decision. Ask each student to: 
    • Use the decision–making model to determine alternatives and the consequences or outcomes of each.
    • Choose the alternative that he or she thinks best and give reasons for selecting it. 
  • Have students present their scenario, alternatives, and decision (with reasons) to the class or a small group. Then have the class or group discuss whether the decision–making model has been applied appropriately and whether the decision is one that produces the best possible result. 
Examples of Ethical Decision–Making Scenarios

Misty and Sonja – No Sale
Misty and Sonja are best friends. They were neighbors from the time they were little until they were in eighth grade when Sonja’s parents got divorced and Sonja and her mom moved to an apartment across town. 

One Saturday while they were shopping at a mall, Sonja took a bunch of clothes into the dressing room to try on. Misty waited for her, and they left the store together. Just outside the store, Misty asked, “Why didn’t you get any of the outfits you tried on?” “I got all of them!” Sonja replied. “I got the five–finger discount. I had a big shopping bag from this store folded up in my purse. No one even noticed. And I took the sweater you liked for you. Here, take it.”

Standing outside the story, Misty is nervous and upset. She knows it is wrong to shoplift, and she’s afraid that Sonja will get caught. Misty is also afraid she will be accused of stealing because she was with Sonja, especially if she takes the sweater she was offered. She is disturbed and disappointed that her friend was willing to steal but she doesn’t want to make a big deal about it. She doesn’t want to ruin the friendship or make Sonja feel bad because she knows Sonja’s family doesn’t have much money.

But she also worries that if she doesn’t try to help Sonja see what she did was wrong, it could ruin her character and reputation. Finally, she worries that if her friend continues on this path, she will continually make bad choices that could mess up the rest of her life.


  • Should Misty let Sonja think stealing is okay or, just as she would try to stop a friend from hurting herself or driving while drunk, should Misty try to stop Sonja?
  • Would a good friend just turn the other way or try and intervene and counsel?
  • If Sonja’s parents had good values, what do you think they would do if they found out what Sonja was doing? Is that parental perspective appropriate or inappropriate for a caring friend?
  • If Misty was your daughter, and she came to you with this problem, what would you do?

Melanie the Store Clerk

Melanie is a store clerk at a local store. One night she catches a 17–year–old stealing school supplies and a pair of sneakers for his little brother. Melanie knows the store policy about shoplifting. In fact, she had to sign a code of conduct saying that she would turn in anyone she caught.

After confronting the 17–year–old, ready to turn the kid in, he pleads with Melanie saying it is the first time he has stolen anything. Then he tells her that his little brother is being teased at school for not having the stuff that other kids have. Their mother, a single parent, works all day and doesn’t have time or money for her children. Melanie does not know what to do. How should she handle the situation? 


  • Should Melanie turn the 17–year–old into the store manager? Or, does she rationalize that he had a good reason to steal?
  • What should Melanie think about in making her decision?
  • How can the decision she makes have an impact on her own goals?
  • What are the options?
  • If Melanie was your daughter, and she faced this dilemma, what do you hope she would do? Why?

Kenny and the Bully

Les is known as a troublemaker and bully in school. He never does his homework and constantly interrupts class with his unruly behavior and smart–mouth comments. He hangs around with a group of guys who share his lack of interest in school and his knack for getting into trouble. Les and his buddies don’t like the ‘jocks’ or the ‘study nerds’ in the school, and they aren’t shy about letting everyone know how they feel about those students.

Kenny is one of the study nerds that Les doesn’t like. Les often threatens and picks on Kenny in class and in the halls, but Kenny just lets it slide. He knows some kids who talked back to Les, and they got beat up by Les and his friends.

One night after school, Kenny walks out to the parking lot and finds Les ‘keying’ the principal’s car. Kenny tries to act like he hasn’t seen it, but Les walks up to him and grabs him by the shirt collar.

“If you breathe a word about what you saw, you will die!” Les whispers. “No problem, man, I didn’t see a thing,” says Kenny.

A few minutes later, while Kenny is waiting at the bus stop, the principal leaves and notices that his car has been damaged. He walks over to the bus stop and says, “Kenny, I trust you. Did you see who did this to my car?”


  • What should Kenny do?
  • If Kenny’s immediate objective is to avoid being beaten up, what options does he have other than lying to the principal? List everything Kenny could do.
  • What should Kenny do if the principal mistakenly blames another student for the vandalism?
  • What values are involved in the choices Kenny faces? Who are the ‘stakeholders?’
  • What should Kenny be thinking about here in terms of his immediate and long–term goals? What are the most important goals that could be affected by the choice he is about to make?
  • What should Kenny know to make a different decision?

Finish the Story

Learning Objective: To understand that we have the power to decide what we think, what we say, and what we do


  • Read each fictitious story, and creatively finish them in two different ways by having the characters respond in the most irresponsible way and then in a responsible way.

Story #1: “Cheating”

After graduation, Jamie found herself at a big university. Her parents were so proud. She was looking forward to four years of undergrad in the pre–med program, followed by med school, and then a career as a doctor. The first classes were brutally tough. Then came her first mid–term exam! She read the first question of the exam, and her mind went blank. She looked at the second question. She didn’t know the answer. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she tried to concentrate. She looked up, and there it was: an answer sheet in plain view, right on the desk in front of her… (You finish the story from here)

When you’re done writing the endings to the story, answer these questions:

  • What were the consequences for those who made irresponsible decisions? 
  • What were the benefits to the characters that made the responsible decisions? 
  • Why is it that we often know what it takes to be responsible, and yet we don’t always make a good decision?
  • Does someone always have to experience the negatives of a situation in order to learn responsibility? 
  • What five things need to happen for you to be more responsible in your own life?
  • Why would cheating never prosper someone (list at least five reasons)? 
  1. Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 
  2. Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. – Napoleon Bonaparte
  3. When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice. – William James
  4. It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. – Roy Disney
  5. Choices are the hinges of destiny. – Attributed to both Edwin Markham and Pythagoras
  6. When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made. – Author unknown
  7. Life is the sum of all your choices. – Albert Camus
  8. Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline. – Jim Collins
  9. Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it. – Gordon Graham
  10. One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt