Fieldwork: Ethics education should do more than sensitize students to ethical issues they may encounter in fieldwork and future professional practice. Students also need opportunities to demonstrate that they can act appropriately. Simulations can give them the chance to integrate knowledge and practice, thus helping them to better recognize ethical issues while out on fieldwork. Read more Elkin (2004).
Case studies: Ethics can be taught with case studies by using:
A pragmatic approach which teaches students about codes of ethics and emphasizing what it means be a professional and how to behave
An embedded approach where ethics is taught as a general understanding of morality and students can make autonomous ethical decisions
A theoretical approach outlining ethical theories that can then be applied to a range of situations Read more Ozolins (2005).
Formal and informal learning, Interdisciplinary projects: Students from education, cultural studies, environment and business came together on a project that investigated social trends and global issues related to sustainability from a range of perspectives in an interdisciplinary dialogue and worked towards solutions. They engaged in both formal and informal learning and their feedback showed that they found these learning environments highly suitable for developing competencies relevant to sustainable development. Read more Barth, Godemann, Rieckmann & Stoltenberg (2007).
What you should think about when promoting ethical and sustainable practice in your teaching
Teaching philosophy: I believe in student-centred learning. I think about the contribution I am making to the development of students skills and capabilities for their future professional lives.
Pedagogies: Learning approaches that promote ethical and sustainable practice which characteristically emphasize constructivist learning suit my teaching.
Curriculum: There are specific learning outcomes I wish my students to have in my course.
Tools for learning: I can motivate my students to adopt strategies for ethical and sustainable practice. I can incorporate learning of ethical and sustainable practices into my course.
Commitment: I can identify an ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ champion who will support innovative practice.
Why is it important?
While there are many aims of higher education, it is important that students are not only competent professionals who can think for themselves, but are ethical people committed to the good, truth, justice and compassion and know what this all means (Ozolins, 2005).
Education for sustainable development (ESD) is crucial for moving society towards a more sustainable future where as responsible citizens we can actively and constructively engage with issues of the economic, social and ecological dimensions of our existence (Axelsson, Sonesson & Wickenberg, 2008; Ellis & Weekes, 2008). Even though there are issues around how SD can be effectively incorporated into higher education curriculum, universities have a place in ensuring graduates have some proficiency in sustainable literacy (de la Harpe & Thomas, 2009; Ellis & Weekes, 2008, Haigh, 2005).
Finally, Haigh (2008) argues that society’s current competitive individualism and commerce driven principles challenge or even contradict the personal and ethical responsibilities that we have for the environment and the future. Shifts are needed within higher education institutions to reclaim learning and teaching as a moral and political practice that integrates citizenship, social justice, ethics and sustainable development to influence social change and shape a sustainable future (Haigh, 2008).
What is it and how does it support learning? What does recent research say?
Being ethical is not about being regulatory or making judgments but living in a way that enables us to be personally happy and to have public integrity as we are suitably challenged by the tensions of everyday life in today’s world (Cheney, 2004).
Ethics is relevant in every discipline and is present wherever there is choice. The choices we make are influenced by our values and the values we hold suggest we have ethical standards to guide our decisions (Cheney, 2004).
An ethics course requires four elements in order to be successful. It needs to be pitched at the right level for students and meet their needs. It should be taught at a stage when they will be most receptive to a study of ethics. It should be of an appropriate length, for example 4-12 weeks. It should allow students to practice their moral decision making skills through use of case studies (Ozolins, 2005).
Sustainable development is an extension of liberal education in that it takes in the ecological world alongside the human word as an arena for knowledgeable professionals and critical citizens to bring about change to the world (Axelsson, Sonesson & Wickenberg 2008).
Education for sustainable development (ESD) aims to enable people to both construct knowledge and reflect on ways to live and work responsibly in a future oriented and globally focused world (Barth, 2007). Universities have an important role to fulfil in providing learning that is formal and informal as well as participative and open-minded to enable students to develop and apply appropriate competencies alongside the knowledge they form (Barth, Godemann, Rieckmann & Stoltenberg, 2008).
Sustainability development (SD) should not just be restricted to environmental disciplines, modules and the classroom (Haigh, 2005). It must become a part of every disciplinary paradigm and therefore affect everyday thinking if graduates are to have any impact in their professions. SD also needs to become an integral part of curriculum to give students understanding of sustainability issues and raise awareness of how to work and act (Holmberg, Svanstrom, Peet, Mulder, Ferrer-Balas & Segalas, 2008). In particular, sustainability needs to be seen to be an integral part of how higher education institutions operate as well as teach (Haigh, 2005).
A recent study shows that sustainability in Australian higher education curriculum does not tend to be well integrated in either specialist or generalist programs. The focus of its presence typically takes a technological solutions or scientific approach. Disciplines in human culture and behavioral change do not tend to integrate sustainability issues suggesting curriculum is bereft in the historical, cultural and spatial aspects of sustainability (Sherren, 2006).