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Contemporary Ethical Issues Focus

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Best practices and characteristics of good assignments*

  • Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus rubric (Click here)
  • Characteristics of good assignments
    • In Fall 2012, a group of faculty members with experience teaching Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus classes generated a list of characteristics of good E assignments. A good E assignment has one or more of these characteristics:
      1. Asks students to connect ethical issues or materials to personal values and experiences.
      2. Encourages students to discover commonalities and differences with their peers.
      3. Asks students to reflect on current, concrete, relevant ethical issues.
      4. Gives students alternative frameworks that allow them to talk about ethical issues. (e.g., students use both utilitarian and values approaches).
      5. Makes ethical reasoning relevant to studentsí future professional and personal lives.
      6. Makes a connection of the inter-dependence of individual and community.
      7. Makes a connection between short and long term consequences.
      8. Makes students grapple with the complexities and grey areas of an ethical issue.
      9. Makes it clear that students can disagree with each other and with the instructor as long as they appropriately apply an ethical reasoning framework.
      10. Asks students to explore the challenges in bridging the gap between moral reasoning and practice.
      11. Uses cases/scenarios.

    • The faculty group also noted the following:
      • Avoid assignments that have one pre-set correct answer [see #8 above];
      • Establish ground rules of respect and privacy; and
      • Protect studentsí right to limit personal disclosure (have a disclosure agreement/guidelines).

E Focus Student Learning Outcomes


Undergraduates can:

  1. identify ethical issues in a contemporary situation/professional setting;

  2. deliberate responsibly on ethical issues using tools/processes/frameworks;

  3. form sound ethical judgments.

  • Sample annotated assignments

Here is a collection of sample assignments that might guide you in developing your own assignments to help students achieve the learning outcomes effectively. The E Board thanks the following faculty members who have made the following assignments available and helped us with annotation: Victoria Anderson, Ho Leung Ng, Jenifer Winter, Brien Hallett, and Catherine Sophian. 

*The E Board thanks Monica Stitt-Bergh for her help in arranging the materials on this page.

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