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Teaching Ethics

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published on March 19, 2021

Robert Kirkman

Getting a Feel for Systems: Designing a Problem-Based Course in Environmental Ethics

In response to the challenges of teaching a course in environmental ethics to engineering majors at a technological university, I have developed an approach that emphasizes the role of moral imagination in conjunction with systems imagination in responding to problems that arise in shared environments. The course is set out on a model of problem-based learning, conceived as a cognitive apprenticeship: by working together to understand and consider responses to problems that are of interest to them, with guidance and tools provided by the instructor, students develop their capacity to notice, respond to and think about systems and values with greater sophistication. After setting out the rationale and the design of the course, I note the challenge that remains: developing a systematic assessment of the course, which would involve detecting and tracking subtle changes in student cognition.

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