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Improving Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Judgment Through an STS-Based Science Ethics Education Program

Abstract

This study develops a Science–Technology–Society (STS)-based science ethics education program for high school students majoring in or planning to major in science and engineering. Our education program includes the fields of philosophy, history, sociology and ethics of science and technology, and other STS-related theories. We expected our STS-based science ethics education program to promote students’ epistemological beliefs and moral judgment development. These psychological constructs are needed to properly solve complicated moral and social dilemmas in the fields of science and engineering. We applied this program to a group of Korean high school science students gifted in science and engineering. To measure the effects of this program, we used an essay-based qualitative measurement. The results indicate that there was significant development in both epistemological beliefs and moral judgment. In closing, we briefly discuss the need to develop epistemological beliefs and moral judgment using an STS-based science ethics education program.

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Correspondence to Hyemin Han or Changwoo Jeong.

Appendix: Essay Questions Used to Measure Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Judgment

Appendix: Essay Questions Used to Measure Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Judgment

Question for SK

Do you think science can simply and clearly explain everything? In other words, do you think science can explain natural phenomena to us simply and clearly without any complexity? Why do you think so?

Question for CK

Do you think science can bring us certain and eternal truth? Why do you think so?

Question for IA

Do you think great scientists were born with innate abilities? Otherwise, do they establish their own knowledge and abilities through endless and effortful practices? Why do you think so?

Question for Science-Related Moral Dilemma

I am a professor in a university, got a huge amount of research grant from a national foundation, and operate my own laboratory. Our team has been conducting a research project to discover a novel genetic material—Z—, since 3 years ago; we got one million dollars per year from the national foundation. We are on the last phase of our 5 years long project, however, a problem occurred. Although we expect that this new genetic material will contribute to drastic development in biotechnology in Korea, this new material would produce huge amount of pollutants during mass production. I think it is inappropriate to continue this research project with my good conscience. However, if we complete this project, Korea can compete with other leading countries in this field; moreover, we will be able to expand our research team with an increased funding grant. If we report the side effect, and abort this project, we would lose a chance to compete with world-leading countries, and even worse, researchers in our team would lose their positions. In this situation, what should I do? Should I continue this project? Or should I abort the project and report the side effect? Why do you think so?

Question for General Kohlbergian Moral Dilemma (Extracted from Rest 1979)

A man had been sentenced to prison for 10 years. After 1 year, however, he escaped from prison, moved to a new area of the country and took on the name of Thompson. For 8 years he worked hard, and gradually he saved enough money to buy his own business. He was fair to his customers, gave his employees top wages, and gave most of his own profits to charity. Then 1 day, Mrs. Jones, an old neighbor, recognized him as the man who had escaped from prison 8 years before, and whom the police had been looking for. Should Mrs. Jones report Mr. Thompson to the police and have him sent back to prison? Why do you think so?

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Han, H., Jeong, C. Improving Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Judgment Through an STS-Based Science Ethics Education Program. Sci Eng Ethics 20, 197–220 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-013-9429-4

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Keywords

  • Science–Technology–Society (STS)
  • Science ethics education
  • Epistemological beliefs
  • Moral judgment
  • Moral development