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The use of ethical frameworks by students following a new science course for 16-18 year-olds

By Michael Reiss


There has been a move in recent years towards the greater inclusion of social and ethical issues within science courses. This paper examines a new context-based course for 16-18 year-olds (Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology) who are studying biology in England and Wales. The course is taught through contexts and has an emphasis on social issues and the development of ethical reasoning. Examination of a sample of reports written by students in 2005 as part of the course's summative assessment shows that utilitarian ethical reasoning is used widely and that the other ethical frameworks to which students are introduced in the course – rights and duties, autonomy and virtue ethics – are used substantially less often. In addition, students mostly argue anthropocentrically though many of them argue ecocentrically and/or biocentrically too

Year: 2008
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