Case-Based Ethics Education: The Impact of Cause Complexity and Outcome Favorability on Ethicality

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Department or Administrative Unit


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Case-based learning has been used across multiple disciplines, including ethics education, as an effective instructional tool. However, the value of case-based learning in ethics education has varied widely regarding case quality. Case content may significantly impact the ability of case-based ethics education to promote knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer to future situations requiring ethical decision-making. This study examined two critical areas of ethical case content—causes and outcomes. Complexity of described causes and outcome favorability were manipulated in two ethical cases used during an ethics education course. Results suggest that including information in case studies reflecting clear, simple key causes and negative outcomes results in better ethical sensemaking and ethical decision-making. Implications regarding case content and case-based ethics education are explored.


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Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics