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Creating Classroom Lessons on Ethical Inquiry

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
446

Faculty often struggle with their own competence in broaching these topics. Not all disciplinary experts feel they have a complete handle on all of the ethical issues and implications that may arise. In addition, fostering an open, yet productive, discussion calls upon skills in facilitation and mediation, which some professors may feel the need to develop.

Folks:

The posting below looks at some of the ways to foster more effective ways of dealing with the examination of ethical issues in the classroom. It is by Dr. Miriam R. Diamond, Assistant Director Center for Effective University Teaching, Northeastern University. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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CREATING CLASSROOM LESSONS ON ETHICAL INQUIRY

 

How do we go about promoting ethical inquiry in the classroom? Current political and economic conditions highlight the necessity of addressing these issues with students, preparing future professionals to recognize and respond to ethical concerns thoughtfully. Discipline-specific issues include the carrying-out and publishing of scientific research, conducting and reporting findings from journalistic investigations, marketing products to consumers, and patient confidentiality in health-related fields.

A discussion on this topic was held at a recent Northeastern University Center for the Advancement of Science Education (NUCASE) Ethics Forum. The Forum is an opportunity for colleagues to reflect upon and investigate ethical concerns and issues that are experienced in our roles as teachers, administrators, advisors, researchers and scholars. About a dozen representatives of various departments around the university contributed to this discussion.

NUCASE endorses the Awareness, Investigation and Response ("AIR") approach for guiding students to examine ethical aspects of their disciplinary research and practice. Students are supported and encouraged to recognize issues as they arise. They are also assisted in the identification and generation of options for action. Finally, they are led through the process of determining ways to address the situation.

Faculty often struggle with their own competence in broaching these topics. Not all disciplinary experts feel they have a complete handle on all of the ethical issues and implications that may arise. In addition, fostering an open, yet productive, discussion calls upon skills in facilitation and mediation, which some professors may feel the need to develop.

Below are the steps outlined by the Ethics Forum members to support faculty in this process.

STEPS FOR TEACHING AND PROMOTING ETHICAL INQUIRY IN THE CLASSROOM:

I. FACULTY REFLECTION

- Consider your teaching goals and course objectives; what is in the best interest of this course? What method(s) can help you achieve your goals?

- Self-examination, know the limits of your competence or perspective in dealing with the topic.

II. SET THE TONE:

- Work with students to establish (and keep) ground rules(such as confidentiality, tenor of discussions). - Use this as an opportunity to promote effective communication skills (how to talk respectfully others, listening and checking in on what others seem to be saying, how to disagree , use of "I" statements) in your class.

- Articulate clear objectives for the discussions - for example, the point of discussion may be to help each person clarify their own thinking on a controversial issue.

III. COMMONLY USED METHODS:

- Storytelling, case studies; encouraging students to tell their own stories/dilemmas (e.g. from Co-operative education experiences), professor can present a situation s/he experienced to serve as a model.

- Reenactments, role play, simulations (such as Image Theatre), drama scenes (this type of activity introduces a sense of more immediacy and realism than third-person story-telling and analysis).

- Discuss the process of making decisions (not merely the decisions) - encourage discovery of "why" (identify basis for choices), explore underlying beliefs and values, examine values not raised by students.

IV. PROMOTING ETHICAL DEVELOPMENT

- Foster exploration of possible implications and consequences.

- Identify dividend/payoffs of ethical inquiry; ask students to consider the benefits of taking the ethical stance.

- Ask the question "how do you want to be seen?"; stimulate consideration of how the decision made might appear to outsiders and/or at a later point in time.

- Supply information on resources to support students' decision-making process including the NUCASE website and campus ethics-related courses.

For more information, see the NUCASE webpage at: http://www.casdn.neu.edu/~nucase

Reported by: Miriam Rosalyn Diamond, (M.Diamond@neu.edu) Center for Effective University Teaching Perrin Cohen, NUCASE Glenn Hill, Information Technology Wendy Smith, Department of Biology