How to teach science ethics : strategies for encouraging moral development in biology (and other) students through the design and use of structured exercises in bioethics
The aims of this European Commission funded project, carried out at the University of Glasgow, were to develop an approach for the inclusion of ethics in a science undergraduate curriculum and to evaluate the success of that approach. The moral nature of science as an academic discipline and as a professional career justifies the resources spent on novel ethics teaching within a science course. Choices in science - allocation of research funds, selection of research topics, interaction with research subjects (animals, environment, other humans) etc. - often, if not always, include some elements of morality. The dilemmas involved require decision-making which cannot, and should not, be made without reflection on the values that govern science and society at large. From the student perspective, the ethics curriculum aims to promote and accelerate moral development. In the context of ethics teaching in a science curriculum, moral development consists of two components: moral sensitivity and moral cognitive skills. Moral sensitivity is an ability to understand that moral aspects are as valid as factual data, and to distinguish between the two. Moral cognitive skills consist of an ability to 1) analyse the moral aspects of a situation, 2) differentiate the significant from the insignificant, 3) foresee the moral consequences of actions, and 4) to make moral decisions, in particular when it is necessary to choose between two or more incompatible values. The minimal ethics teaching intervention used in this study was a success as it captured students' motivation and interest and supported moral sensitivity development, which is the first step of moral development. The results show that ethics education is needed to support students' search for adequate moral decision-making tools and their ability to include moral considerations in their general decision-making.