GeoEthics > How to Teach GeoEthics

How To Teach GeoEthics

David Mogk, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University and Monica Bruckner, SERC, Carleton College, based in part on material developed by participants at the 2014 Teaching GeoEthics Across the Curriculum workshop.

The tenets of excellence in STEM education extend to instruction in GeoEthics:

Teaching GeoEthics requires three stages: 1) awareness of the ethical dilemma or problem, 2) ethical decision-making, and 3) monitoring or modifying behaviors, including taking appropriate actions. The following module provides some guidance about how to engage students in all three of these important aspects.

We have compiled a number of online resources to help you design, teach and assess courses in the geosciences. Please refer to these resources as you develop your own courses and curricula in GeoEthics:

There are also two domains of learning, based on research in the cognitive and learning sciences, that are closely related to teaching GeoEthics:

General Advice on Teaching Ethics

When designing a lesson or activity, keep these two general guidelines in mind:

  1. Be aware of the different ways to introduce GeoEthics. Decide if you will cover ethical content implicitly (without formally framing the content as "ethics"), explicitly, or both. Implicit teaching is embedded throughout and is less likely to trigger students answering ethical questions based on what they think the teacher (or society) prefers. Explicit teaching fosters metacognition and can lead to a greater self-awareness of how ethical decisions are constructed.
  2. Allow for open-ended discussion. Teaching GeoEthics allows students to ask questions, and often the questions have no right or wrong answers.

While it may seem intimidating, instructors can include GeoEthics without having formal ethical training. These pieces can serve as an outline to guide development and implementation of activities and assignments.

Guiding Questions for Exploring GeoEthics

Questions that Can Be Used to Start and Guide Discussion

Asking ethical questions requires students to think critically. Such questions include:

Related Resource:

Instructional Strategies

Example Classroom Activities Using Active Learning Methods

"Embedded Ethics" or "Micro-Insertion"

Interactive Lectures

Case Studies

Current Events and Topical Issues

Role Playing

In-Class Debates

Socratic Questioning

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

Service Learning

Guides for Ethical Decision-Making

E-Mail Discussions or other Social Media

Journal Publications

Students Engage Journalism

Using Video

Some Example Syllabi

"Sample Course Webpage - Science and Engineering Ethics" , Online Ethics Center for Engineering 6/20/2011 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Sunday, June 08, 2014

GeoEthics Training Outside of Formal Classes

The Resources for Research Ethics Education website recommends the following approaches to teaching ethics in a variety of contexts:

Mentoring of Students – Lab Instruction

Assessing GeoEthics Instruction: Student learning outcomes and assessments



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