Education Statement

The UW-Stout Center for Applied Ethics provides services and resources to instructors in order to promote the goal of all graduates having a substantial ethics education that enables them to become ethical leaders and role models.  But the question naturally arises: what is ethics education?  This document attempts to provide some answers to this multifaceted question.

First, generally speaking, ethics education is instruction and exploration regarding the meaning and application of values and priorities, whether in the workplace, at home, in politics, in schools, or elsewhere.  In addition to general ethics courses, specific areas of ethics education include such fields as business ethics, ethics in hospitality and tourism, biomedical ethics, engineering ethics, ethics in Art and Design, legal ethics, governmental ethics, comparative ethics, media ethics, religious ethics, environmental ethics, research ethics, and professional ethics.

Second, generally speaking (and following the work of the Hastings Center), ethics education should strive to:

  1. stimulate the moral imagination.  
  2. help people recognize moral issues.  
  3. teach people how to analyze and apply moral concepts and principles.  
  4. encourage responsibility, whether personal, civic, societal or professional.  
  5. teach people to understand , respect, and  reason about ethical disagreement or uncertainty, especially in regard to multicultural and global differences.

Third, a variety of methods may be used effectively to promote these objectives in the classroom.  Some examples include assigned readings (hard copy or electronic), lecture, class or small group discussion (face-to-face or electronic), group and/or individual projects, reflective or research-oriented writing assignments, service learning activities, and guest speakers.  These methods might make use of materials as case studies, ethical theories, professional codes of conduct, and/or models for ethical decision-making.  

Fourth, learners are best served when they are provided with conceptual tools or a framework for making responsible choices and creatively meeting life’s many ethical challenges, not merely a list of do’s and don’ts.   Consideration should be given to motives, relevant rules, policies and laws, the consequences, and virtues and vices.  Learners also are best served when they are required to state and defend their views about controversial issues either orally or in writing.  It is important for learners to be aware of logical, professional and cultural standards and be accountable to others for their choices.

Fifth, instructors should attempt to design curriculum and pedagogy with some awareness of empirical research on human moral development.For example, although classroom instruction may influence transitional student values/disvalues it rarely affects core student values/disvalues.A second example: moral development has both intellectual and affective components.Attention to one but not the other is less effective than attention to both.