Navigating Bioethical Waters: Two Pilot Projects in Problem-Based Learning for Future Bioscience and Biotechnology Professionals

Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (6):1649-1667 (2016)
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Abstract

We believe that the professional responsibility of bioscience and biotechnology professionals includes a social responsibility to contribute to the resolution of ethically fraught policy problems generated by their work. It follows that educators have a professional responsibility to prepare future professionals to discharge this responsibility. This essay discusses two pilot projects in ethics pedagogy focused on particularly challenging policy problems, which we call “fractious problems”. The projects aimed to advance future professionals’ acquisition of “fractious problem navigational” skills, a set of skills designed to enable broad and deep understanding of fractious problems and the design of good policy resolutions for them. A secondary objective was to enhance future professionals’ motivation to apply these skills to help their communities resolve these problems. The projects employed “problem based learning” courses to advance these learning objectives. A new assessment instrument, “Skills for Science/Engineering Ethics Test”, was designed and administered to measure the success of the courses in doing so. This essay first discusses the rationale for the pilot projects, and then describes the design of the pilot courses and presents the results of our assessment using SkillSET in the first pilot project and the revised SkillSET 2.0 in the second pilot project. The essay concludes with discussion of observations and results.

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Author Profiles

Aaron Levine
Georgia Institute of Technology
Roberta Berry
Georgia Institute of Technology
Robert Kirkman
Georgia Institute of Technology

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