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Goals Met Through Case Discussion

Recent studies in moral development suggest that an effective way to promote the moral development of college students is to discuss and analyze real world cases. Discussion of cases meets a range of goals that research in moral development and moral educators agree are import, including:

  1. Mastering a knowledge of basic facts and understanding and applying basic and intermediate ethical concepts. These include such concepts as privacy, intellectual property, safety, reliability, duty, etc. Cases help students learn these in more depth than a lecture can provide by:
    • Developing and enlarging a stock of prototypical instances
    • Challenging and defending definitions
    • Learning to adjudicate competing claims from different concepts (e.g. the tradeoffs of privacy and safety)
  2. Practicing moral imagination. A crucial ability that is strengthened by using cases to help students:
    • Take the perspective of the other
    • Develop the ability to generate novel solutions to problems
  3. Learning moral sensitivity by learning to recognize the sometimes hidden ethical and moral implications in a case.
  4. Building ethical community by coming to agreement on the basic values of the profession.
  5. Dealing with ethical ambiguity and disagreement by participating in respectful disagreement with others on professional issues.

All these goals can be achieved by case discussion, and may be quite difficult to achieve otherwise without some equally active approach (like the Social Impact Statement).