In the course of their work, interpreters face ethical dilemmas that require prioritizing competing moral beliefs and views on professional practice. Although several decision-making models exist, little research has been done on how interpreters learn to identify and make ethical decisions. Through surveys and interviews on ethical decision making, the author investigated how expert and novice American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters discuss their ethical decision-making processes and prioritize prima facie duties, or meta-ethical principles (Ross, 1930/2002). The survey participants included 225 novice interpreters with 3 or fewer years of experience as nationally certified interpreters and 168 expert interpreters with 10 or more years’ experience. Three novice and three expert interpreters were chosen to participate in the face-to-face interviews. The findings show that both novices and experts similarly prioritize the prima facie duties of “fidelity,” “do good,” and “reparation,” although there was variability between the groups. To explain their responses, novice interpreters cited their professional ethical code and rubric decision-making guidelines, and they used low-context discourse to analyze individual-focused responses. Expert interpreters, conversely, drew upon tacit knowledge built upon a foundation of the Code of Professional Conduct and used high-context discourse to develop a collective-focused response.


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