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Teaching Ethics


published on August 5, 2015

William J. Frey

Teaching Responsibility
Pedagogical Strategies for Eliciting a Sense of Moral Responsibility

This paper will outline a pedagogical approach to teaching moral responsibility by unpacking this concept, following Herbert Fingarette, as moral responsiveness to essential moral relevance (Fingarette 1971: 186–7). As response to relevance, moral responsibility begins with sensitivity to the moral aspects of the surrounding situation and unfolds with the development and execution of skillful action to transform surroundings in light of this moral relevance. Developing moral responsibility poses a series of pedagogical challenges that arise out of its cognitive and volitional skills, the first detailing how the agent hones in on moral relevance, the second how the agent responds through action to this relevance. These challenges overlap substantially with the widely known skill sets laid out by the Hastings Center. Teaching modules published in an ethics across the curriculum toolkit will show how responsibility can be learned by redeploying existing pedagogical practices such as case discussion, role-playing, debating, dramatizing, and framework-aided practice sessions in problem-solving. These familiar classroom practices can be used to support a skills-based pedagogical approach that directly addresses the unique challenges presented by the practice of moral responsibility. In summary, this essay outlines a proactive approach to moral responsibility, describes the pedagogical challenges it poses, and offers specific and concrete classroom responses to these challenges.

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