Original Paper

Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 1305-1322

Case-Based Ethics Instruction: The Influence of Contextual and Individual Factors in Case Content on Ethical Decision-Making

  • Zhanna BagdasarovAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma Email author 
  • , Chase E. ThielAffiliated withCentral Washington University
  • , James F. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma
  • , Shane ConnellyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma
  • , Lauren N. HarkriderAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma
  • , Lynn D. DevenportAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma
  • , Michael D. MumfordAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Oklahoma

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Abstract

Cases have been employed across multiple disciplines, including ethics education, as effective pedagogical tools. However, the benefit of case-based learning in the ethics domain varies across cases, suggesting that not all cases are equal in terms of pedagogical value. Indeed, case content appears to influence the extent to which cases promote learning and transfer. Consistent with this argument, the current study explored the influences of contextual and personal factors embedded in case content on ethical decision-making. Cases were manipulated to include a clear description of the social context and the goals of the characters involved. Results indicated that social context, specifically the description of an autonomy-supportive environment, facilitated execution of sensemaking processes and resulted in greater decision ethicality. Implications for designing optimal cases and case-based training programs are discussed.

Keywords

Case-based instruction Ethical decision-making Ethics cases Teaching ethics