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The Importance of Formative Assessment in Science and Engineering Ethics Education: Some Evidence and Practical Advice


Recent research in ethics education shows a potentially problematic variation in content, curricular materials, and instruction. While ethics instruction is now widespread, studies have identified significant variation in both the goals and methods of ethics education, leaving researchers to conclude that many approaches may be inappropriately paired with goals that are unachievable. This paper speaks to these concerns by demonstrating the importance of aligning classroom-based assessments to clear ethical learning objectives in order to help students and instructors track their progress toward meeting those objectives. Two studies at two different universities demonstrate the usefulness of classroom-based, formative assessments for improving the quality of students’ case responses in computational modeling and research ethics.

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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grants IIS-0832843 and IIS-0832844. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We would like to thank Nicole Cooley for help with data coding; Ying Liu and Natalie Bolton for data analysis; and David Kijowski for his help in developing the case studies that were tested in these two studies.

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Correspondence to Matthew W. Keefer.

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Keefer, M.W., Wilson, S.E., Dankowicz, H. et al. The Importance of Formative Assessment in Science and Engineering Ethics Education: Some Evidence and Practical Advice. Sci Eng Ethics 20, 249–260 (2014).

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