An Innovative Way To Teach Ethics

Submitted by Mary Kate Morgan

Merriam-Webster (2019) defines ethics as “a set of moral principles; “a theory or system of moral values”; “a guiding philosophy”; “a consciousness of moral importance”. When working as a family scientist, in any career setting, it is essential to remember the importance of ethics. The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) provides ethical principles and guidelines for family scientists. Before listing these principles the NCFR provides a purpose statement that reads: “these ethical principles and guidelines were developed to inspire and encourage Family Scientists to act ethically; provide guidance in dealing with often complex ethical issues; provide ethical guidance in areas that Family Scientists may overlook; and enhance the professional image and status of Family Scientists by increasing the level of professional consciousness” (NCFR, 2019). Here are a few examples of the guidelines from NCFR:
  • Family scientists are respectful of others, show sensitivity to the dignity of all humans, and avoid all forms of exploitation
  • Family scientists are not unethically discriminatory on the basis of gender, sexual, orientation, age, marital status, race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, or socioeconomic status.
  • Family scientists are sensitive to the complications in dual or multiple role situations and are ethical in those roles.
So how does a teacher teach a complex subject such as ethics? Morgan (2018) suggests the use of “real life” stories from professionals in the field to add depth, relevance, and reality to the class’ discussion of ethical practice in family science. Stories have been used for many years to teach different subjects. “Collecting stories from professionals in the field can also provide us with a window into experiences and settings with which we are not familiar” (Morgan, 2018). In order to get a better idea of how to collect stories, Kari Morgan, from Kansas State University, interviewed six interviews with family science professionals. Specifically, family science professionals working in rural communities, because she knew the majority of her students would be practicing family science in rural areas. After conducting these interviews and using the stories professionals provided her, Morgan (2018) concluded that teachers will have to be okay with being vulnerable and “comfortable with being uncomfortable, to not know all the answers, and be okay with being ‘off the cuff’ or off script”. For students, the use of stories can make them feel more connected with a teacher, which leads to students opening up more in conversations about ethics.

Stories “add great depth to conversations and discussions related to ethics in family science classes” which leads to students having a better understanding of what ethics are in the family science field. Preparing students to enter the world of family science feeling comfortable and having knowledge of the ethical guidelines will strengthen the field of family science. Using stories to teach ethics can also change the way teachers think about teaching ethics. Morgan (2018) stated that using the stories she heard from family science professionals “transformed” her teaching “in ways that are hard to quantify.”

For more information read: Morgan, K. (2018). Using stories to teach ethics in family science. Family Science Review, 22(2), 21-33.



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