Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 1305–1322 | Cite as

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

  • Zhanna Bagdasarov
  • Chase E. Thiel
  • James F. Johnson
  • Shane Connelly
  • Lauren N. Harkrider
  • Lynn D. Devenport
  • Michael D. Mumford
Original Paper


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.


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



This research was supported by grant # 0931539 from the National Science Foundation. The project tile is: “Case-Based Reasoning and Ethics Instruction: Content and Processing Exercises for Effective Education.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhanna Bagdasarov
    • 1
  • Chase E. Thiel
    • 2
  • James F. Johnson
    • 1
  • Shane Connelly
    • 1
  • Lauren N. Harkrider
    • 1
  • Lynn D. Devenport
    • 1
  • Michael D. Mumford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Central Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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