The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, in partnership with Stanford, the University of South Florida, The Citadel, Depauw University, and Harvard’s Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Project (HULA), has launched a two-year, mixed-methods research study on ethics in undergraduate education. The state of ethics education in the U.S. has received inadequate scholarly attention. Despite the proliferation of ethics courses, degrees and initiatives in recent years, there is no framework for determining what ethics education is achieving at colleges and universities, whether it is meeting students’ needs, and how we might effectively assess student learning. Our work at Harvard will contribute to a broader national initiative, the National Ethics Project (NEP), which seeks to redefine ethics education for the coming decades, by developing knowledge and tools to improve quality, effectiveness, and intentionality. The NEP has bold, national ambitions, but the initial phases of the Emergent Trends in Teaching and Learning Ethics (ETTLE) have begun comprehensively documenting, analyzing and mapping all course offerings related to ethical education and ethical role-construction across Harvard University. In this effort, the project is seeking course syllabi, assignments, reading materials and survey data from both faculty and students alike in order to better understand the learning goals of course creators and to evaluate student development. Primary research questions for Harvard's portion of the NEP include:
- Where and how is ethics taught to students on the Harvard campus, within and beyond the classroom? Do patterns emerge based on the institution’s characteristics or other variables? What trends exist in adoptions of ethics courses, degrees, and initiatives?
- What ethical quandaries do students express that they face or care about? Where are the gaps between current pedagogic practices and students’ articulation of needs?
- What are appropriate methods of assessing ethics curricula, co-curricular activities, and informal student experiences? Are current course and program-level assessments aligned with institutional goals?
- What should contemporary ethics education and assessment look like in light of student’s needs, technological and demographic changes, and trends in higher education?