Owner: Ron Drozdenko (Version 2)
Students should be aware that the actions of individuals and organizations (i.e., government agencies, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGO), unions, religious institutions, action groups, etc.) affect other people and societies. Students also should be able to examine and evaluate the impact of their behavior on others. At a very basic level, students will be attempting to distinguish what is right from what is wrong given cultural and historical perspectives. Further, students should consider the responsibility individuals and organizations have in promoting social causes. When exploring situations that have ethical and social implications, students should realize that positions and parties are often in conflict.
This module can be implemented in many courses. Ethical situations arise in the context of social and behavioral sciences, biological and physical sciences, the performing arts, and professional studies in addition to the humanities. Instructors should have students examine the ethical issues specifically related to course content. This could include the methods used to gather information in the field, the products of their field (e.g., devices and compounds, literature, music, research papers, etc.), processes used in the field (e.g., psychotherapy, invasive medical diagnosis, collection of personal information, etc.) or how the work of the field is interpreted by members of society. A number of models (e.g., deontology, teleology) from the field of ethics can be used to implement this module. However, instructors are not required to apply any formal models or perspectives from the field of ethics, they only need to be aware of the ethical issues in their field and present these issues to students for systematic examination.
The Ethics module can be implemented in several ways. The instructor must show evidence in the syllabus that students are being evaluated on ethical issues that comprise at least 10% of the final grade. The following are examples of ways to meet the module requirements:
- Students are exposed to at least one ethical situation per week and required to write a short paper or present oral arguments relevant to the ethical viewpoints of the situation. The paper or oral arguments are graded by the instructor.
- Students develop a more comprehensive examination of ethical issues. This could be in the form of one major paper or shorter papers totaling a minimum of 15 pages.
- Students develop oral presentations individually or in groups. This requirement could be fulfilled in one major or more than one shorter presentations. The total presentation time should be at least 20 minutes per student.
- Students have essay exam questions relevant to ethical issues discussed in class. A minimum of two exams with ethical issues are required.
Examples of Implementation
- Students or student groups examine two or more articles with ethical implications that have opposing positions (e.g., stem cell research, euthanasia, outsourcing, privacy and fighting terrorism, etc.). Students evaluate how the authors support their arguments and the potential positive and negative implications of the position. Guest lectures or video presentations could also be used to present opposing positioning on a topic.
- Students place themselves in an ethical situation faced by an individual in a case example (historical figure, organizational leader, etc.) and examine their anticipated personal response to the situation. Students would reflect on how their background (family, religion, friends, culture, etc.) could affect how they would react.
- Students write a reflective paper on an issue discussed in class. For example, students can explore how they reacted to a situation that caused an internal moral conflict (e.g., friend plagiarizing, helping a victim in a dangerous location, etc.). Students can reflect upon what guided their actions and if they would do anything differently.
- Students explore course content areas and speculate in writing or orally upon potential ethical dilemmas. For example, students in a course on the performing arts could speculate upon what types of works might produce societal stirrings. Students could examine the segments (religious, ethnic, demographic, etc.) of society affected by the works and discuss the responsibilities (if any) artists have to society.
Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, using exams, papers, presentations, etc. faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria.
- Ability to understand the impact of individual or organization behavior on individuals and/or society.
- Ability to interpret and express the opposing perspectives on an ethical issue.
- Ability to reflect upon personal thoughts and behavior in a situation with ethical implications.
- Ability to examine the social responsibilities individuals and organizations have toward socials causes.
It also would be valuable if instructors determined how many students reached a satisfactory level on each criteria. A pre and post test method would also be useful to determine student accomplishment in ethical thinking. Faculty could use this information to improve the content and methods of teaching this module.