Using Eight Key Questions as an Inquiry-Based Framework for Ethical Reasoning Issues in a General Education Earth Systems and Climate Change Course
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
An important objective in general education geoscience courses is to help students evaluate social and ethical issues based upon scientific knowledge. It can be difficult for instructors trained in the physical sciences to design effective ways of including ethical issues in large lecture courses where whole-class discussions are not practical. The Quality Enhancement Plan for James Madison University, “The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action,” (http://www.jmu.edu/mc/index.shtml
) has identified eight key questions to be used as a framework for developing ethical reasoning exercises and evaluating student learning. These eight questions are represented by the acronym FOR CLEAR and are represented by the concepts of Fairness, Outcomes, Responsibilities, Character, Liberty, Empathy, Authority, and Rights. In this study, we use the eight key questions as an inquiry-based framework for addressing ethical issues in a 100-student general education Earth systems and climate change course. Ethical reasoning exercises are presented throughout the course and range from questions of personal behavior to issues regarding potential future generations and global natural resources. In the first few exercises, key questions are identified for the students and calibrated responses are provided as examples. By the end of the semester, students are expected to identify key questions themselves and justify their own ethical and scientific reasoning. Evaluation rubrics are customized to this scaffolding approach to the exercises. Student feedback and course data will be presented to encourage discussion of this and other approaches to explicitly incorporating ethical reasoning in general education geoscience courses.