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Infusing Bioethics into Biology and Microbiology Courses and Curricula: A Vertical Approach

    Authors: Kathleen S. Jagger1,*, Jack Furlong2
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    Affiliations: 1: Biology Program, Transylvania University, Lexington, KY 40508; 2: Philosophy Program, Transylvania University, Lexington, KY 40508
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 15 December 2014
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Biology Program, Transylvania University, 300 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40508. Phone: 859-233-8172. E-mail: kjagger@transy.edu.
    • ©2014 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 213-217. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.783
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    Abstract:

    With the rise of biomedicine and biotechnology, there has been a corresponding growth in the need for better understanding of consequent ethical questions. Increasingly, biologists are being asked not only to offer technical clarifications but also to venture ethical opinions, for which most feel poorly equipped. This expectation puts pressure on biology instructors at the university level to provide biology majors the skills and experience to discuss with some confidence and competence bioethical issues which may arise in either the workplace or through public discourse in everyday contexts. Many fine curricular resources about bioethics are available for varied pedagogical purposes, but few target undergraduate biology or microbiology student audiences. When it occurs in the context of a course, bioethics instruction often is taught by non-biologists outside standard biology curricula. We propose that biologists should strive to “infuse” bioethical thinking into their courses and major curricula but not in such a way as merely to point at ethical problems, treating them at a surface level. We suggest what we call “vertical infusion”: taking one bioethical issue per course and integrating this issue within the context of a relevant biological topic, challenging students to push their thinking beyond their initial intuitions toward underlying scientific and ethical principles. While the vertical approach lacks widespread coverage of ethical issues throughout a single course, it has the advantage of taking the bioethical dimension seriously and in intimate relation to contemporary discoveries in biology and to the biological principles, processes, or procedures that occasioned the ethical quandaries in the first place.

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References & Citations

1. American Association for the Advancement of Science2009Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to actionAAASWashington, DC17
2. Beauchamp T, Childress J2013The principles of biomedical ethics7th editionOxford University PressOxford, UKPart II, chapters 3–6
3. Booth JM, Garrett JM2004Instructors’ practices in and attitudes toward teaching ethics in the genetics classroomGenetics1681111111710.1534/genetics.103.023077155796731448769 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.103.023077
4. Chamany K, Allen D, Tanner K2008Making biology learning relevant to students: integrating people, history, and context into biology educationCBE Life Sci Educ727627810.1187/cbe.08-06-0029 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.08-06-0029
5. Loike JD, Rush BS, Schweber A, Fischbach RL2013Lessons learned from undergraduate students in designing a science-based course in bioethicsCBE Life Sci Educ12701710242972963846520
6. Lysaght T, Rosenberger PJIII, Kerridge I2006Australian undergraduate biotechnology student attitudes towards the teaching of ethicsInt J Sci Educ28122510.1080/09500690600560803 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690600560803
7. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research1979The Belmont ReportUnited States Health and Human ServicesWashington, DC[Online.] http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/policy/belmont.html
8. National Human Genome Research Institute1990ELSI Research Program[Online.] http://www.genome.gov/10001618
9. National Institutes of Health2009Curriculum supplement series, exploring bioethics[Online.] https://science.education.nih.gov/customers.nsf/HSBioethics.htm
10. Noddings N2001The care tradition: beyond “Add women and stir.”Theory Pract40293210.1207/s15430421tip4001_5 http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4001_5
11. Pearce RS2009A compulsory bioethics module for a large final year undergraduate classBiosci Educ13121[Online.] http://journals.heacademy.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.3108/beej.13.110.3108/beej.13.1 http://dx.doi.org/10.3108/beej.13.1
12. Presidential Commission for the study of bioethical issues2009Education[Online.] http://bioethics.gov/education
13. Rhodes R, Gligorov N, Schwab AP2013The human microbiome: ethical, legal and social concernsOxford University PressNew York, NY
14. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization2008Bioethics core curriculum[Online.] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/bioethics/ethics-education-programme/
15. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization2005Universal declaration on bioethics and human rights[Online.] http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001461/146180e.pdf
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.783
2014-12-15
2017-03-23

Abstract:

With the rise of biomedicine and biotechnology, there has been a corresponding growth in the need for better understanding of consequent ethical questions. Increasingly, biologists are being asked not only to offer technical clarifications but also to venture ethical opinions, for which most feel poorly equipped. This expectation puts pressure on biology instructors at the university level to provide biology majors the skills and experience to discuss with some confidence and competence bioethical issues which may arise in either the workplace or through public discourse in everyday contexts. Many fine curricular resources about bioethics are available for varied pedagogical purposes, but few target undergraduate biology or microbiology student audiences. When it occurs in the context of a course, bioethics instruction often is taught by non-biologists outside standard biology curricula. We propose that biologists should strive to “infuse” bioethical thinking into their courses and major curricula but not in such a way as merely to point at ethical problems, treating them at a surface level. We suggest what we call “vertical infusion”: taking one bioethical issue per course and integrating this issue within the context of a relevant biological topic, challenging students to push their thinking beyond their initial intuitions toward underlying scientific and ethical principles. While the vertical approach lacks widespread coverage of ethical issues throughout a single course, it has the advantage of taking the bioethical dimension seriously and in intimate relation to contemporary discoveries in biology and to the biological principles, processes, or procedures that occasioned the ethical quandaries in the first place.

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