Innovation in Ethics and Civics Education

The Innovation in Ethics and Civics Education Initiative comprises our Ethics Pedagogy Fellowship Program; National Ethics Project; Democratic Knowledge Project; EdEthics; and an expansion of Harvard’s signature Embedded Ethics program to disciplines beyond Computer Science. 

  • On-campus, our Ethics Pedagogy Fellows partner with faculty to revamp current courses or design new courses that meet the Ethics & Civics requirement for the College’s General Education curriculum and incorporate active-learning projects. 

  • Our Center has led the research project Emergent Trends in the Teaching and Learning of Ethics (ETTLE)—our contribution to the National Ethics Project—to improve our understanding of where and how ethics is taught across the University. This project has yielded three new assessment and evaluation tools: a course identification tool, an instructor learning theory survey, and a student learning theory survey. Preliminary dissemination of this first phase of research has sparked considerable interest. We are now expanding the work through the National Ethics Project to better understand the landscape of ethics education at post-secondary institutions across the country. 

  • The Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP) has built a strategy for rebuilding civic education, in partnership with teachers and school districts. The content of the DKP’s civics instructional materials and resources seek to scaffold learning and development in five areas: (1) agency; (2) responsibility and trustworthiness; (3) bridging skills; (4) political institutions and history and theory of democracy; and (5) U.S. history and history of American political thought in a global context. In other words, our strategy for civic education bridges agency and capacity-oriented education with content knowledge. We are now piloting a new 8th grade civics course with school districts in Massachusetts, in response to 2018 reforms to the state’s educational standards. The DKP has co-designed this open source year-long Grade 8 Civics Course with the Cambridge Public School District, titled “Civic Engagement in Our Democracy.” Known as the DKP-Cambridge Grade 8 curriculum, it is open source and available to all Massachusetts educators.  

  • EdEthics is building a global field of educational ethics, modeled after bioethics, that will offer guidance about novel ethical challenges arising from technological innovation in K-16 education, as well as clarify what is ethically required, permitted, and forbidden in daily educational practice and policy.  

  • Embedded Ethics is a new program that integrates custom-designed ethics modules into a range of courses across the university. This program is an expansion of Embedded EthiCS, a successful collaboration between the faculties of Philosophy and Computer Science at Harvard University that introduces ethics curriculum into existing CS courses.