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Teaching Ethics


published on August 12, 2020

G. Fletcher Linder, Allison J. Ames, William J. Hawk, Lori K. Pyle, Keston H. Fulcher, Christian E. Early

Teaching Ethical Reasoning
Program Design and Initial Outcomes of Ethical Reasoning in Action, a University-wide Ethical Reasoning Program

This article presents evidence supporting the claim that ethical reasoning is a skill that can be taught and assessed. We propose a working definition of ethical reasoning as 1) the ability to identify, analyze, and weigh moral aspects of a particular situation, and 2) to make decisions that are informed and warranted by the moral investigation. The evidence consists of a description of an ethical reasoning education program—Ethical Reasoning in Action (ERiA)—designed to increase ethical reasoning skills in a variety of situations and areas of life. ERiA is housed at a public, major comprehensive U.S. university—James Madison University—and assessment of the program focuses on interventions delivered prior to and during orientation for incoming first-year students. Findings indicate that the interventions measurably enhance the ability of undergraduate students to reason ethically. ERiA’s competency-targeted program and positive student learning outcomes offers a promising model for higher education ethics programs seeking to connect classroom learning in ethics to decision-making in everyday life.

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