Ethics, issues and consequences: conceptual challenges in science education


  • Barbara van Leeuwen
  • Rod Lamberts
  • Paula Newitt
  • Sharyn Errington


The goal of this study was to examine how ethical judgement and decision-making is learnt, taught, and understood across undergraduate science courses at The Australian National University (ANU). 'Behaving ethically' as a generic graduate attribute usually is interpreted as professional ethics relating to behaviour in a professional setting. The idea that science can and should have guiding principles which are understood (or understandable) and acceptable to the majority in society is not a new one. This study investigates the range of courses specifically related to ethical thinking and behaviour available to science undergraduates at ANU. Data relating to the uptake of these courses and feedback by science students are presented. A pilot survey of science lecturers at ANU explored their understandings of how they incorporate ethics into their teaching. Conceptual challenges emerged for both students and staff.