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5.2 The Structure of the "Ethics in education" Course

The structure of the course can be presented by following steps:

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Exercises that provide different viewpoints to educational ethics
  3. Students create a list of ethical principles and
  4. Students reflect on what they have learned.

It can be argued that the structure of the course is in line with the pedagogical pattern that is used to teach science. Typical science teaching has a following structure to teach phenomena in nature (Harlen, 1996):

  1. Students think what kind of preconception they have about phenomenon like gravity.
  2. Students make experiments on gravity.
  3. Based on results on experiments students think how and why their understanding about the phenomenon has possibly changed.
    1. compares with “Introduction to the course”.
    2. compares with “Exercises that provide different viewpoints to educational ethics” and “Students create a list of ethical principles.”
    3. compares with “Students reflect on what they have learned.”

The reason why our exemplary university teacher tries to follow scientific way to teach is in it's practicality. The essence of presented science teaching pattern is in making experiments. Thus, it's probable that following it will support the goal to teach educational ethics theory through practice.

It's worth noticing that pedagogical pattern to teach science can already be applied in primary schools. So, it doesn't necessarily require a lot of time, competence and resources but it is more like a paradigm that the university teacher tries to keep in mind when designing and conducting her university course to be more practical.


5.2.1 Introduction to the course


The goal in the first part of the course is the help students to become aware of what ethics in education means in a nutshell. Introduction also gives the teacher valuable information on students' prior knowledge about the subject (Sawyer,2008). This information helps teacher to select material, pedagogical models and technological tools that provide better foundation to students to construct new knowledge. The third goal is that students can give proposals on what subjects will be discussed during the course. Teacher emphasizes that the essence in ethics is always on values and how an individual acts upon them (Fenner, 1999). This is the core idea that helps teacher to teach ethics theory through practice.


During the course the teacher communicates general information to students such as course length, classrooms, assignments, schedule, possible changes to plan etc. ( For details on main educational tool on this part of the course, see chapter LMS. )

How to do it?


  1. The teacher shows to students different topics that deal with ethics in education. Examples are such as:
    1. Is there an ethical problem with the fact that the background (race, socio-economic status etc.) of student influences his/her study results?
    2. What kind of rights (E.g. physical means, right to view personal things, punishments) should teacher have to control students?
    3. What is ethical educational policy?
    4. What kind of ethical problems there can be in giving grades to students?
    5. How behavior of each single student influences ethics in school?
  2. The students have group discussions about above mentioned topics they are interested in. Teacher uses YouTube videos to support students’ awareness about ethics in education concept. Especially helpful videos could be in changing students’ possibly wrong understanding about the deeper reasons to ethical problems in education. ( See more about the reasons to use videos in chapter YouTube. )
  3. Students form groups, create mind maps where they present their current understanding about ethics in education and they present their mind maps to the whole class. Teacher encourages students to use distributed knowledge sources (Sawyer,2008). An example mind map of the students on this phase could be like this one:

             ( For rationale to use mindmap tool, see chapter )


5.2.2 Exercises that provide different viewpoints to educational ethics


This is the main point of the course. It's aim is to try to widen understanding about the ethics in education. Maybe students aren't aware on a detailed level what kind of values they have and how their values influence their behavior? There are a lot of other viewpoints to ethics that could be taken into account in exercises. Viewpoints like how historical development has influenced current ethics in students’ environment and the impact of modern technology are a couple of examples that could be handled during lectures.


Main pedagogical model that teacher uses during lectures is case based learning. According to Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education cases based learning can be described as: “Cases are factually-based, complex problems written to stimulate classroom discussion and collaborative analysis. Case teaching involves the interactive, student-centered exploration of realistic and specific situations. As students consider problems from a perspective which requires analysis, they strive to resolve questions that have no single right answer.” (EduTechWiki).


Another important part of this phase are the ethics related questions that students study in their spare time.


In addition to main pedagogical model (case based learning) used in lectures teacher may try some other models that don’t require too much time and preparation. An example of such model is drama pedagogy.


How to do it?


  1. Teacher uses various techniques like “Analogous relationships”, “Both sides towards middle” and “Testing limits to help students to see how complex or tricky real life cases can be. As an example on how these techniques can be used see discussion about confidentiality in
    By applying these techniques to ethics in education theme teacher tries to help students to see, if they really are aware of their values and how those influence their behavior.
  2. Teacher uses several ethics related cases as a trigger to create discussion about ethics during a single lecture. Ethics related cases can be found for example by Google Scholar keyword “Ethical issues in education” from
    When these cases are applied to case based learning following structure could be applied:
    1. Teacher divides students to groups and gives each group ethics in education related question (E.g. How university students should use material in internet so that they don't break copyrights? Why do you say so?)
    2. Students discuss in groups about the question by analyzing material. Students are encouraged to use material in internet when they see it helps them to understand, reason or explain the case better.
    3. Students make short notes about the main points of their conclusion and present the material to whole class. Whole class discusses the subject. ( Read more about the presentation tool in chapter Prezi. )
    4. Teacher (or anybody) may raise questions that open a new viewpoint to discussion, if the case isn't simple.
  3. Teacher expects students to do some ethics related studies at home during their spare time. The goal is that the study questions will be created by students themselves. This is possible as it’s obvious that students feel sometimes that they didn’t quite understand the point in some of the cases they have been analysing and discussing. Or maybe they just found out some interesting topic or detail they would like to study more? Also teacher may raise some questions based on students’ handling of cases especially, if she feels that some important point hasn’t been understood well enough.  Teacher emphasises that the goal of the study is to help students to develop their own understanding about ethics in education theme. Also, if they find out that personal study has given them some information they can apply in their everyday life the study has fulfilled its’ purpose. ( See chapter PLE for an explanation about educational tool on this part of the course. )
  4. Teacher can use e.g. drama pedagogy to help students to reflect on how they would talk and act in situations in which it seems ethical to pay attention to other people's conduct, but it might be difficult to do it. An example of such a case is situation in which university student that is becoming a teacher is having a training in a school. The trainer (qualified teacher) notifies that the student is not preparing well enough to lessons. Student hasn't given any explanation and his behavior has a negative impact on pupils (Benninga, 2003). How should teacher speak to student in a way that is building? When drama pedagogy is applied the structure of the lecture could be as follows:
    • Teacher points to students various databases that have appropriate material and she gives them an example search words:”Ethical issues in education”. The idea is that students can find themselves ethical themes they are interested in and they can form their own understanding about the ethical (cause, result, etc.) issue presented by the source. ( Read more about the rationale behind using various database search engines in this part from chapter Search Engines. ) The teacher is ready to help students according the principle of scaffolding to help them to form their own understanding (Sawyer, 2008).
    • Some volunteers (number of people is linked to given problem and may differ from 2 to more involved roles) come in front of the class and start to play roles based on the problem they have found out.
    • After the play the whole class discusses about the drama: How did people in drama handle the case? What was supported good ethics in their behavior? Could something be done even better? Why do you say so? Etc.

5.2.3 Students create a list of ethical principles


The idea on this part of the course is that students create a list of ethical principles that can be applied in university generally no matter what the detailed circumstances are. As the goal of the course is to be practical the principles should be such that they really can be applied in students own university studies. Depending on the course length, especially if there is a bit more time available, this part of the course could apply problem based learning.

( This part of the course can be supported by various tools, for example the tools that have been discussed a bit more detailed level in following chapters:, Prezi, Search Engines and PLE. )

How to do it?


  1. Teacher gives the students the task (problem) to create list of ethical principles that can be applied in university environment. Students can decide themselves the format of the list. Students should think about different roles in university and various situations that can arise.
  2. Student can form groups as they like. Students should think e.g. about following matter. How much time they have to achieve to goal? What kind of roles are needed in the group? How shall the group work (e.g. How do they collaborate? What tools they use?)? How shall each group combine their work with others? Do they perhaps divide the work somehow (E.g. each group thinks about the problem from the viewpoint of different university roles.)?
  3. As an outcome of the task students create and present a list of ethical principles that can be applied in university. An example of a principle could be a sentence following the idea of Golden Rule:”Treat other people as you would like to be treated.”


5.2.4 Students reflect on what they have learned


The idea of this phase is to help students to make a summary of the most important learning points in the end of the course. The goal is that this phase further deepens students' understanding about ethics in education. It also gives valuable feedback to teacher to fine tune her course so that it deserves student needs even better. And finally as teacher is especially interested to teach theory through practice she will ask students to write their opinion on how well the teaching succeeded in achieving that goal.

( Read more about the details and reasoning on main educational tool used on this part of the course from chapter Blogging Tools. )


How to do it?


  1. Students write a personal article where they analyze the course by answering to questions like: Do you think the cases presented in the course were realistic? Did the course make you more aware about your values and how your behavior influences university ethics? Did the course provide you something concrete you can apply in you every day life? What were the issues that you would first change in the course, if you were a teacher? Why do you say so?
  2. Teacher reads students articles and uses ideas in them to shape the course so that it fulfills the needs of students even better in the future, if possible, and teaches ethics in education in a practical way.

5.2.5 Sources

Ethics in education. 1999. Fenner David E.W. New York. Carland Publishing.

EduTechWiki (, Fetched 5.11.2012)

Optimising Learning: Implications of Learning Sciences Research. 2008. Sawyer, R, K.

The teaching of science in primary schools. 1996. Wynne Harlen. London: David Fulton Publishers.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. 2003. Benninga, J. (2003). [online referenced 18.11.2012], available:


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