Supporting Ethical Reasoning in Student Argumentation

  • Joan Carlton Griswold Northwest Association for Biomedical Research
  • Jeanne Ting Chowning Northwest Association for Biomedical Research


In order to support teachers in introducing complex, ethical topics in the classroom, we have developed tools, strategies and pedagogical techniques to help structure discussions about socially relevant issues. This paper comments on the importance and benefits of incorporating ethics into the classroom, and describes five strategies that both scaffold student understanding of ethical issues and support students’ abilities to come to a reasoned and well-supported decision about those issues. The strategies addressed are: 1) Exploring perceptions about ethics, 2) Employing structured discussion techniques, 3) Providing ethical background and frameworks as structure, 4) Applying ethical principles to a case study, and 5) Introducing stakeholder views.

Author Biographies

Joan Carlton Griswold, Northwest Association for Biomedical Research
Joan Griswold, MIT, is the Curriculum Design Lead for NWABR where she writes, manages, edits, disseminates and oversees field-testing for the Ethics in the Science Classroom curricula. Joan is a former science teacher with over a decade of experience at both middle and high school levels.
Jeanne Ting Chowning, Northwest Association for Biomedical Research
Jeanne Chowning, MS, serves as the Director of Education for NWABR. For nearly 20 years, Jeanne has directed her professional efforts towards improving pre-college science education and promoting a greater understanding of biomedicine and bioethics among teachers and their students. Jeanne leads several federally-funded science education programs focused on promoting dialogue about science and society, and on preparing young people for the future.