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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: [email protected].
    • ©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 Science 2009 Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to action AAAS Washington, DC 17
2. Beauchamp T, Childress J 2013 The principles of biomedical ethics 7th edition Oxford University Press Oxford, UK Part II, chapters 3–6
3. Booth JM, Garrett JM 2004 Instructors’ practices in and attitudes toward teaching ethics in the genetics classroom Genetics 168 1111 1117 10.1534/genetics.103.023077 15579673 1448769 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.103.023077
4. Chamany K, Allen D, Tanner K 2008 Making biology learning relevant to students: integrating people, history, and context into biology education CBE Life Sci Educ 7 276 278 10.1187/cbe.08-06-0029 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.08-06-0029
5. Loike JD, Rush BS, Schweber A, Fischbach RL 2013 Lessons learned from undergraduate students in designing a science-based course in bioethics CBE Life Sci Educ 12 701 710 24297296 3846520
6. Lysaght T, Rosenberger PJ III, Kerridge I 2006 Australian undergraduate biotechnology student attitudes towards the teaching of ethics Int J Sci Educ 28 1225 10.1080/09500690600560803 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690600560803
7. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research 1979 The Belmont Report United States Health and Human Services Washington, DC [Online.] http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/policy/belmont.html
8. National Human Genome Research Institute 1990 ELSI Research Program [Online.] http://www.genome.gov/10001618
9. National Institutes of Health 2009 Curriculum supplement series, exploring bioethics [Online.] https://science.education.nih.gov/customers.nsf/HSBioethics.htm
10. Noddings N 2001 The care tradition: beyond “Add women and stir.” Theory Pract 40 29 32 10.1207/s15430421tip4001_5 http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4001_5
11. Pearce RS 2009 A compulsory bioethics module for a large final year undergraduate class Biosci Educ 13 1 21 [Online.] http://journals.heacademy.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.3108/beej.13.1 10.3108/beej.13.1 http://dx.doi.org/10.3108/beej.13.1
12. Presidential Commission for the study of bioethical issues 2009 Education [Online.] http://bioethics.gov/education
13. Rhodes R, Gligorov N, Schwab AP 2013 The human microbiome: ethical, legal and social concerns Oxford University Press New York, NY
14. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2008 Bioethics 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 Organization 2005 Universal 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
2019-08-18

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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