Ethics in Environmental Education Modules

Funded by the National Science Foundation - NSF #0529766
by rjp218 Mar 03, 2015

Development and Modification

Other than the RCR module, these ethics modules were developed by each instructor specifically for use in their classes. Each module investigates ethical issues that emerge from conducting certain kinds of scientific research and applying certain forms of scientific knowledge. The initial research group arrived at the conclusion that the most effective approach to integrating ethics was to always work from examples in the practice of research and analysis, as opposed to applying general ethical directives (normative ethics) over a wide range of environmental topics.

While the modules may be usable with little alteration for your course, it is not expected that they fit without significant modifications. There are a few ways existing modules can be revamped to use the same ethical issues in different examples.

  • First, would be to extract the specific examples and replace with those relevant to material covered in your class. For example, we could look at ethical issues in data analysis, but choose a different example where overconfident projections led to misjudgment.
  • Second, would be to use similar thematic content (such as responsible conduct of research; data analysis; sustainability; cost/benefit analysis; environmental risk-analysis; or decision-making under uncertainty) and analyze it based on different ethical issues. For example, data preparation and evaluation can have ethical implications related to the responsible conduct of research, decision-making under uncertainty, or data analysis.
  • Third, would be to develop similar ethical content found in one of the modules, but applied to a different theme. For example, issues of distributive justice issues find relevance in cost-benefit analysis, environmental risk-analysis, or sustainability.

If the module does not fit into one of the thematic areas, or if you would like to build your own based on other aspects of environmental science, there are a variety of ways to approach module development:

  • Identify an issue you have encountered in your own practice which you think has raised significant or even minor ethical questions or concerns. Or, identify a thematic area, such as responsible conduct of research; data analysis; sustainability; cost/benefit analysis; environmental risk-analysis; or decision-making under uncertainty.
    • Proceed with describing the area of study or expertise;
    • the wider issues in the field;
    • how the ethical issue arose;
    • appropriate measures for engaging the issue;
    • and places or resources students can go to for further insight into the problems

It should be emphatically mentioned that collaboration is an important aspect of module development. These modules were developed for classes, but also were passed around through an informal peer review. These review steps proved highly valuable in producing a robust module for a wider audience. The Rock Ethics Institute is devoted to continuing module development in these areas and is more than willing to discuss any modules you would like to develop and test.