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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Imprimer: 2151-805X
ISSN En ligne: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.v1.i3.10
pages 155-177

Comparison of Pedagogies to Address the Macroethics of Nanobiotechnologies

Daniel A. Vallero
Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
Douglas James
Academic Affairs, Duke University Graduate School, Durham, North Carolina


A team of engineering faculty, scientists, ethicists, and educational researchers conducted a study of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training at Duke University to identify effective pedagogical methods to ensure that graduate students involved with nanobiotechnology research could identify macroethical issues and articulate strategies for addressing them. Unlike most RCR training, which has focused solely upon individual researcher behaviors (microethics), this project focused on engaging researchers with the societal implications (macroethics) of their research. Pedagogical methods were compared and an assessment of student learning outcomes was conducted using pre-test, post-test, focus group, and survey methods. The efficacy of teaching microethical and macroethical dimensions was evaluated in relation to three aspects of graduate student development: ethical awareness, ethical reasoning and reflection skills, and motivation and will to act in an ethical manner. Key findings were that: i) thematic keynotes enhance participant engagement, ii) code writing and case analysis as active learning methodologies promote participation, iii) interdisciplinary audiences can significantly raise awareness of ethical issues, and iv) responsible decision-making and behavior were difficult to measure within the time frame of this study (3 years). Recent social scientific perspectives on moral, personality, and epistemological development help to interpret how RCR training relates to graduate student development.