Today’s high school students study an array of complex topics in their science classes, including such issues as genetic testing, clinical trials, and vaccination. To develop students’ thinking about the thorny ethics issues that surround these topics, EDC researchers worked with a team of ethicists, scientists, and teachers to produce a new curriculum.
Exploring Bioethics, which was developed to supplement existing textbooks, includes case studies, handouts, and discussion guides. “Students at this age are forming their own opinions on so many important topics,” says EDC’s Jackie Miller. “Their decisions may be based on emotion or because someone else tells them how to respond. But we want to build their decision-making skills, so they can closely evaluate their reasons and choices, and reach informed conclusions.”
For example, a unit on genetic testing describes the case of fictional 15-year-old Max, who has lost several relatives to thyroid cancer. Students debate whether Max should be tested for the genetic mutation that causes the deadly disease, and they answer questions such as, Who should decide if Max gets tested? Should Max have a say? If Max has the test, should the results be shared with his siblings?
Commented one teacher who field tested the materials, “Students thought about things they had never thought about before and walked away with knowledge about ethical decision-making that they will actually use throughout their lives.”
The curriculum, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a collaboration of EDC’s Center for Applied Ethics and Center for Science Education. NIH will unveil it at the National Science Teachers Association conference in March.
Originally published on January 21, 2009