Collaborations to Advance Understanding Science and Ethics (CAUSE)

  • Project Description

    This program forges a partnership among scientists ethicists and educators in order to prepare students to explore social and ethical questions surrounding biomedical research and to help students consider how these questions will influence their lives. Our primary goals are to increase public understanding of: 1) ethics and its relation to science in order to foster discourse based on thoughtful analysis and critical reasoning; 2) the nature of biomedical research particularly with respect to the role of study design scientific models and clinical trials. The program addresses these goals by developing specific resources for secondary science teachers (including an Ethics Primer plus curriculum units on HIV vaccines stem cells and genetic testing) and by providing professional development for teachers in the use of these resources.

  • Abstract

    UW and the Washington Association for Biomedical Research (WABR) seek three years of funding for ‘Collaborations to Advance Understanding Science and Ethics’ (CAUSE). The CAUSE partners aim to develop educational resources to support the teaching of bioethics at the secondary science school level including: three bioethics curriculum units and one modular ethics primer a series of summer professional in-services for secondary educators related to the classroom use of the units and additional training and written materials to promote leadership and provide professional development strategies for science teachers. The CAUSE materials will use real-life scenarios and case study approaches in order to teach science content and address the complex and sensitive ethical issues raised by biomedical research. Through integration of science and ethics teachers will empower their students to develop critical skills needed to question research and challenge the information they receive. Proposed curriculum units will focus on the ethics of recombinant DNA research stem cells and organ transplantation and human clinical trials. Lastly the CAUSE program will promote the development of an ethics component to the successful Speakers’ Bureau managed by WABR. Together the CAUSE partners intend to create continuing opportunities for scientists and educators to work together in preparing all students to become thoughtful responsible and informed citizens.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    1) Online Ethics and Science distance-learning course for secondary science teachers featuring elements from the Ethics Primer as well as the `Ethics in the Science Classroom- intensive professional development program. 2) Expanded professional development and leadership opportunities for teachers both locally and nationally including a `Leaders Institute- for past program participants and workshops offered in collaboration with the States United for Biomedical Research network. 3) Distribution of resources through web-based networks and teacher professional conferences.

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    Research into Student Learning – Dr. Mark Windschitl CAUSE Co-Principal Investigator and Chair of Curriculum and Instruction in the UW School of Education conducted a research study into student learning to investigate how our work impacted student learning including the degree to which students understand ethical issues and the scientific content within which ethical issues are situated. Design/Instruments Used/Data Collected – Pre/post tests interviews with students and teachers video/audiotape analysis of student work site observations Results – When students lacked familiarity with the science behind an issue with ethical implications they were hindered in their analysis of the issue and coming to a conclusion. Another finding validated our concern that teachers use some form of structured approach to ethical decision-making to provide a scaffold (such as a Decision-Making Framework) for students’ attempts at making sense of complex issues. We also found that weaving ethical discourse in throughout multiple units gives students a chance to apply their growing understandings to new areas. External evaluation centered our primary professional development strategy the residential week-long Ethics in the Science Classroom (ESC) workshop. Assessment looked at the effects of participating in the ESC Workshop and at the impacts on lead teachers/curriculum developers. The data show statistically significant gains in teacher’s perceived understanding of ethics and its relationship to scientific research following the workshop. Also teachers perceived that they are more prepared to use pedagogical practices related to ethics in science and are more willing to use them following their CAUSE professional development experience. They sustained this level of self-reported change through the end of the following school year.

  • Resources for Sharing

    1) Ethics Primer. The Ethics Primer provides engaging interactive classroom-friendly lesson ideas for integrating elements of critical reasoning about ethical issues into a science classroom. It also provides a conceptual framework for understanding ethics as a discipline with straightforward descriptions of major ethical theories and decision-making frameworks. 2) Curriculum Unit – The Science and Ethics of HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials. This curriculum unit focuses on the science of the HIV virus the research process that targets vaccine development and the important ethical guidelines that govern research. 3) Curriculum Unit – The Science and Ethics of Stem Cells. This unit helps clarify the various dimensions of stem cell research – ethical legal social and scientific. 4) Speaker Training Manual for Scientists. This manual serves as a resource for scientists who wish to communicate more effectively about the ethical use of animals in research.

Project Audience

Secondary school (7-12) students and teachers

Subjects Addressed

Bioethics (including stem cells HIV/global health)