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Teaching life science ethics using cooperative learning

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									Teaching life science ethics using cooperative learning

Gary Comstock Iowa State University


1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

What’s the problem? What’s our goal? Individualistic learning Active learning Cooperative learning

1. What’s the problem?

Personal ethics

87 % Students admitting to cheating on written work 70 % Cheated on a test at least once 52 % Copied from someone 26 % Admitted plagiarizing
Carol Innerst, "Universities Retreat in War on Cheating," Washington Times, January 29, 1998

Species extinction Global warming Intrinsic value of ecosystems Animal welfare and rights Genetically modified organisms
Social ethics

2. What’s our goal?

2. What is our goal?

To help students become discerning citizens who can reason about ethics.

What is “discernment?”

Discernment is the ability to:  recognize ethical issues as ethical issues;  articulate and apply moral principles, values;  analyze cases in a self-reflective way.

What is “good reasoning?”

Turn to your neighbor. Write down as many answers as you can think of.


Good reasoning is the ability to  Describe accepted moral standards within the field;  Analyze ethical arguments to discover which argument one has the best reasons to accept;

Good reasoning is the ability to  Recognize key thinkers and texts in the history of ethics;  Reason in a way that is logical, complete, consistent, and clear, and that can recognize potential objections to one’s position.

What skills do students want?

Interdependence Accountability Interaction Collaboration
Skills students want (and need!)

How can we help?
Interdependence Accountability Interaction Collaboration

3. Individualistic learning

Individualistic learning

Students listen to a lecture without talking to neighbors; take notes; respond to occasional questions from the lecturer; study at home alone.

Individualistic learning

Potential benefits Accrue to intuitive learners able to assimilate abstract concepts, theories, histories, explanations and formulas by themselves through careful note-taking and solo reflection.

Individualistic learning

Potential problems For practical learners who assimilate material best by working with others, using more concrete, sensory, pictorial, and / or hands-on procedures and activities

4. Active learning

Active learning

Students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class
Richard Felder, “Active and Cooperative Learning,” e_Learning.html

Active and cooperative learning techniques

1. Think-pair-write-share 2. Write and pass

3. Homework teams 4. Academic controversy (golden rice role-play) 5. Peer composition groups (write a case study)

Engage class with the material on an individual level, in pairs, and finally as a large group

• • • Individually reflect on a question. Pair up with person next to you to share answers. Instructor randomly chooses a few pairs to give 30 second summaries.

Write and pass

Help students learn to construct arguments and analyze assumptions

Write and pass
• • • • • Hand out assignment sheets. Write answer on sheet. Pass paper to the left. Write answer on sheet. Pass paper to the left. Return sheets to original authors. Instructor randomly chooses students to read and discuss what is written on their sheets.

Active learning strategies
May be used at any time Short-term and ad hoc Break up lectures, energize students Provide opportunities for students to process material they’re hearing 5. Not as effective as formal cooperative learning strategies 1. 2. 3. 4.

5. Cooperative learning

Cooperative learning Instruction involving people working in structured teams to accomplish a common goal

A. Goals B. Methods

Cooperative learning

A. Goals
B. Methods

Cooperative learning goals 1. 2. 3. 4. Interdependence Accountability Interaction Collaboration

A. Positive

All team members must cooperate to complete task
Cooperative learning goals

B. Individual and group

All team members are responsible to themselves and each other
Cooperative learning goals

C. Face to face

All members provide feedback, support, critical challenges
Cooperative learning goals

D. Group collaboration All members practice leadership, decision-making, conflict management skills, trust-building
Cooperative learning goals

Cooperative learning
i. Goals

ii. Methods

Active and

cooperative learning techniques

1. Think-Pair-Write-Share 2. Write and pass


3. Homework teams 4. Academic controversy 5. Peer composition groups

Homework teams
Assist students in learning from each other, demonstrating leadership, and mastering material together

Homework Teams
• • • Carefully design problems for groups. Allow students to form teams. Students meet outside class and insure that all members can answer all questions. Instructor randomly calls on teams for responses in class.


Academic Controversy
Help students to enlarge their moral imaginations by playing assigned social roles and defending ethical views potentially at odds with the views they hold.

Academic Controversy
• Carefully design ethical problem and roles for each individual. Assign students to specific roles. Students meet in or outside class to discover and discuss the arguments supporting their position. Instructor moderates a mock authoritative body which proceeds to announce its binding decision.

• •

Peer Composition Groups
To help students construct materials for discussion of ethical issues.

Peer Composition Groups
1. Know your objective. 2. Write clear narratives identifying the scientific facts. 3. Write questions directing attention to the ethical features of the case.

Does it work?
Cooperative Learning Methods: A Meta-Analysis
David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, and Mary Beth Stanne University of Minnesota May, 2000

Does it work?

• ABSTRACT . . . a comprehensive review of the research on the effectiveness in increasing achievement of the methods of cooperative learning used in schools. An extensive search

studies investigating eight cooperative learning

found 164

Does it work?

The studies yielded 194 independent effect sizes representing academic achievement. All eight cooperative learning methods had a significant positive impact on student achievement.

Table 3: Meta-Analysis Results For Cooperative Learning Methods

Average Effect Sizes of “Learning Together” Effect Sd k

Cooperative vs. Competition
Cooperative vs. Individualistic







Does it work?

When the impact of cooperative learning was compared with competitive learning, “Learning Together” promoted the greatest effect, followed by “Academic Controversy” . . .

Cooperative learning strategies: The professor’s role
Carefully specify objectives Explain the group’s task Explain each person’s role Monitor and intervene to teach leadership skills 5. Evaluate student achievement and group effectiveness 1. 2. 3. 4.

Cooperative learning strategies:

Cooperative base groups
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Heterogeneous (in gender, ethnicity, age) Small (3-5 members) Members assigned by instructor Long-term (semester-long) Provided for mutual support And challenge Knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye

Cooperative learning strategies:

Advice from Karl A. Smith
Start small and build You choose the groups Tell students what you’re doing and why Do something cooperative regularly, build habits of cooperation 5. Keep it short; 5 minutes to start, then gradually lengthen 6. Monitor the groups: be positive, patient 7. Don’t give group grades 1. 2. 3. 4.

Cooperative learning

Dawn the student: ROLES
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Spokesperson : Speaks for group Recorder : Keeps notes Timekeeper : Keeps group on task Affirmer : Provide support, encouragement Skeptic : Questions assumptions, raises
issues for clarification

Cooperative learning

Dawn the student: ROLES
1. 2. 3. 4. Spokesperson : Recorder : Timekeeper : Affirmer : Born closest to this spot? Born furthest from this spot? Who got up first this a.m.? Of those remaining, Who got up last? Whoever is left.

5. Skeptic :

Tie-breaker question: Who has youngest child?

Cooperative learning

1. Karl A. Smith, “Adopting your classroom style to help science students be more active learners,” presentation at ISU Bioethics Institute, May 30, 1999 2. David W. Johnson, et al., “Cooperative Learning Returns to College: What Evidence Is There That It Works?” Change (July/ August 1998: 27-35).

Cooperative learning

Richard Felder, Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University

© “Ethicists hanging around,” cartoon by Sidney Harris, published in The Scientist, 28 May 2001, used with permission

Self introductions 1. What would you like us to call you? 2. Department and University?

3. Course in which you (will) discuss ethics. And


4. Something interesting about you
For example:

What is the most unusual thing you’ve been paid to do (and why did you stop)? Or: Who’s the most famous person who has ever spoken to you, and what did they say?

Self introductions

1. Name and Department(s) 2. Institution 3. Course in which you (will) discuss ethics 4. Why are you here? 2 sentences

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