Download the Ethics thinking toolkit, which provides a structured framework for scaffolding student thinking about an ethical issue.
Using the Ethics thinking toolkit
Before students attempt using the Ethics thinking toolkit, we recommend that you explore the ethical issue and ethical thinking with your students to establish a foundation for informed decision making. It’s also important to establish a classroom environment that supports students in sharing their perspectives and listening to others with respect so students feel free to openly evaluate ideas, weigh up evidence, detect bias and justify their decisions.
For more about ethical frameworks and teaching ethical thinking, see Frameworks for ethical analysis and Teaching ethics.
Depending on the age of your students and their prior experience in ethical thinking, you may wish to begin by using only one framework. You may set the framework(s) for students to use or have them choose which ones they feel are appropriate for the issue they are working with:
- Consequences – what are the benefits and risks?
- Rights and responsibilities – what rights need to be protected and who is responsible for this?
- Autonomy – should individuals have the right to choose for themselves, or does one decision count for everyone?
- Virtue ethics – what is the ‘good’ thing to do?
- Pluralism – what perspectives do groups with other cultural, spiritual or religious views have?
After exploring an issue using an ethical framework, you could then encourage students to list five possible responses (actions/decisions) to the issue and rank them. Ethical issues are often complex, with no ‘right’ answer, but ethical deliberation can help us make informed, justified responses. With this in mind, students should explain why they have reached a particular response to an ethical issue and justify their approach.
The recorded PLD webinar, Ethical thinking in science, explores using this toolkit and how it can be used to foster students’ critical and ethical thinking skills.
Remember, for more about ethical frameworks and teaching ethical thinking, see Frameworks for ethical analysis and Teaching ethics.
A selection of resources around science and ethics can also be viewed on our Pinterest board.