Ethics Primer

The Ethics Primer provides engaging, interactive, and classroom-friendly lesson ideas for integrating ethical issues into a science classroom. It also provides basic background on ethics as a discipline, with straightforward descriptions of major ethical theories. Several decision-making frameworks are included to help students apply reasoned analysis to ethical issues.

Although the Primer is designed for secondary school science classrooms, it has been used by teachers in a variety of classes and grade levels. It is particularly suited to social studies and integrated/interdisciplinary classrooms. It has also been used with adults. The Primer is not designed to be used cover to cover. Teachers should review materials and select lessons that fit their needs. The Primer is also intended to be used as a general resource, with a wide variety of topics.

The complete Ethics Primer is now available free for download from the Lessons page, as a full-unit PDF or as individual lessons.

In order for us to measure how our curriculum resources are being used, please take a moment to contact us and let us know the class or classes in which you're using our lessons.  We also welcome feedback about our Ethics Primer. We will not share your contact information with anyone.

"Amazing resource!"
"A fantastic grab bag of powerful teaching tools!"

"This is where I began my learning about teaching ethics. I try to incorporate ethics throughout the year with my students."

Ethics Primer: Lessons

The Ethics Primer provides engaging, interactive, and classroom-friendly lesson ideas for integrating ethical issues into a science classroom.  It also provides basic background on ethics as a discipline, with straightforward descriptions of major ethical theories.  Several decision-making frameworks are included to help students apply reasoned analysis to ethical issues.

Although the Primer is designed for secondary school science classrooms, it has been used by teachers in a variety of classes and grade levels.  It is particularly suited to social studies and integrated/interdisciplinary classrooms.  It has also been used with adults.

The Primer is not designed to be used cover to cover.  Teachers should review the materials and select lessons that fit their needs.  The Primer is also intended to be used as a general resource, with a wide variety of topics.

The Primer can be downloaded in its entirety or in individual lessons or strategies.  The Primer was last updated on this page 10/2008.

To order a hard copy of the Ethics Primer for $35 (includes shipping and handling in the United States), please contact us at 206-957-3337.

    Specific Page(s)
  • The Process of Ethical Inquiry ProcessEthicalInquiry.pdf

    Provides a schematic representation of the process of ethical inquiry, with explanation.

  • Moral Rules and Duties MoralRulesandDuties.pdf

    1 page overview of perspective.

  • Outcomes Outcomes.pdf

    1 page overview of perspective.

  • Virtues Virtues.pdf

    1 page overview of perspective.

  • Principles Principles.pdf

    1 page overview of perspective  **Note:  We recommend focusing on the principles, rather than all perspectives, for introductory students or a brief bioethics unit within a biology class.

  • Care/Feminist Care.pdf

    1 page overview of perspective.

  • Comparison Chart ComparisonChart.pdf

    Compares the perspectives.

  • More on Virtues Virtues.pdf

    Short reading on Virtue Ethics by Dr. Kelly Fryer-Edwards.

  • Ethics Background Reading EthicsBackgroundReading.pdf

    Short reading describing values, morals, and ethics, as well as the various perspectives outlined above.

  • Lesson Strategies Chart StrategiesChart.pdf

    Compares the lesson strategies and assessments.  Provides a summary, sample use, and approximate classroom duration.  Also provides page numbers and serves as table of contents for this section.

  • Discussion Background DiscussionBackground.pdf

    Provides suggestions for discussions and setting norms.

  • Values Activities ValuesActivities.pdf

    Includes exploration of student values ("Choices and Values"), a values prioritization activity, and a "Values Definition" table describing different values.

  • Science and Ethics: Subjective or Objective? ScienceEthics.pdf

    Explores the relationship between science and ethics.

  • Ethical Questions EthicalQuestions.pdf

    Develops student understanding of ethical questions through three different worksheets.

  • Range of Perspectives RangePerspectives.pdf
  • Lifeboat Lifeboat.pdf

    Introduces the "Lifeboat" and other simple ethical dilemmas.

  • Introduction to the Principles PrinciplesIntro.pdf

    Provides ideas for developing student understanding of bioethical principles.  Includes graphic organizer.  **Note:  We recommend focusing on the principles, rather than all perspectives, for introductory students or a brief bioethics unit within a biology class.

  • Ethical Perspectives Review and Quizzes ComparisonofPerspectives.pdf

    Provides ideas for reviewing and assessing student understanding of various perspectives.  **Note:  We recommend these types of activities for bioethics-focused high school classes.

  • Foursquare/Carousel Foursquare.pdf

    Introduces several general classroom strategies that have been adapted to focus on teaching different ethical perspectives.

  • Critical Reasoning Analysis CriticalReasoning.pdf

    Provides a way for students to critically analyze information or an ethical issue using the elements of thought.

  • Introducing a Decision-Making Framework IntroducingDMF.pdf

    Offers several short ways in which to introduce the concepts of stakeholders and of using a decision-making framework for ethical analysis.  Also includes brief ideas for essays.

  • Film and Literary Analysis Films.pdf

    Describes three different formats for analyzing ethical issues in film and/or literature:  Rules VS. Outcomes, Documentary, and Narrative Ethics.

  • Structured Academic Controversy StructuredAcademicControversy.pdf

    Presents the Structured Academic Controversy format:  Through a sequence of scaffolded steps, small groups of students increase their understanding of a community (shared) problem.  They considered alternative perspectives and engage in a shared decision-making process.

  • Case Study CaseStudy.pdf

    Describes an overview of a case study methodology that can be used with a wide variety of scenarios.

  • Congressional Hearing CongressionalHearing.pdf

    Presents a Congressional Hearing Model:  Students analyze a controversial issue from the perspective of a stakeholder, and make a brief presentation to "Congress".  They follow up with a written statement of their own position.

  • Debate Debate.pdf

    Provides a format for a debate.  Includes position sheet and scoring table.

  • So cratic Seminar SocSem.pdf

    Introduces the Socratic Seminar format and provides resources for conducting a seminar.  Socratic seminar are a "collaborative, intellectual dialogue facilitated with open-ended questions about a text."

  • Rubrics/Assessments RubricsAssess.pdf

    Provides several assessments and rubrics, including rubrics for a Socratic Seminar and class discussion, a sample policy letter to the editor.

  • Background on Decision-Making Frameworks (DMF) DMFBackground.pdf

    Offers background on the elements of the Decision-Making Framework provided.

  • 1 page DMF DMFSinglepage.pdf

    1-page short version of a DMF.

  • 4 page DMF DMFLonger.pdf

    4-page longer version, with more room to write.

  • Scoring Guide DMFScoring.pdf

    Scoring guide for the DMF provided.

  • Alternate DMF AlternateDMF.pdf

    Provides several alternate formats for Decision-Making Frameworks, including the 4-box model used widely in clinical ethics.

  • Model Letter to Parents ModelLetterParents.pdf

    Provides a sample letter that could be sent to parents at the beginning of a bioethics.

  • Bioethics Topics Ideas TopicsList.pdf

    Describes topics related to bioethics that could be the focus of student reports or research.

  • Case: Pennington Pennington.pdf

    Describes a case in which a genetically modified pig liver was used to keep a young man alive until a human organ could be found.  Includes extensive background and analysis.

  • Case: Ashley Ashley.pdf

    Describes a case in which medical procedures designed to keep a young woman with static encephalopathy from physically maturing are carried out in order to allow her parents to better care for her.

  • Other Cases OtherCases.pdf

    Provides several other case studies, Two Tales of Rice (genetically modified food), Talk About Short (growth hormone for short stature--fictionalized), and One Family's Dilemma (a family considers what to do about excess IVF embryos).

  • Resources Resources.pdf

    Books, Websites, and Other Resources.

If you would like to provide feedback on the Primer, please contact us at 206-957-3337. We are always interested in stories about how you used our materials!

Ethics Primer: Resources

This page is coming soon!

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