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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Navigating Ethical Waters in the College Classroom | Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning

Photo: Donna Qualters
Should teachers strike?
How should government balance privacy rights with national security?
Should companies value their shareholders over the environment?
How quickly should a software company fix a known bug? summarizes Dr. Donna M. Qualters, director of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at Tufts University.

Photo: Faculty Focus
Regardless of discipline, faculty are faced with ethical issues in our classes around a variety of sensitive topics, and students will question the ethics of certain practices or topics in our field. As trained academics, we are not always comfortable having discussions where there is no clear right or wrong answer or talking about ethical areas in which we do not feel we are experts. So, how do you respond to students who really want to know “the answer” to these types of questions?

Many disciplines respond by requiring ethics courses in the major. While these courses are valuable, the issues covered often do not transfer when students are faced with real issues in the real world. 

Talking about the ethics of stem cells and being in a lab that uses stem cells are two entirely different contexts. The current “wanted and watched” generation has a learned reliance on adult authority and direction to help them solve their problems.

While we can debate the role of ethics in our classes and discuss whether it’s even our responsibility to teach ethics, the reality is we are asked to do that every semester. We would better serve our students to engage in these challenging discussions during the “teachable” moment than ignore them.

One way to help students wrestle with these ethical dilemmas, without declaring what we would do, is to teach them ethical inquiry when you come across a discipline issue that raises ethical questions. If our goal is to help students respond in a compassionate, sensitive way to important issues, we need to show them how to think through questions where there are no clear-cut answers. There are many forms of ethical inquiry we can use to guide students, but they all have common components.

Source: Faculty Focus