Teaching Ethics In Stem Education

teaching ethics in stem education

Combining science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, STEM education prepares students to be the world’s future problem solvers. But real-world issues require ethical deliberations. This is why some experts say students need to be guided toward productive discussions about the ethical issues in STEM.

The Ethics Impact

STEM subjects focus on solutions to society’s concerns. Whether they involve environmental issues or improving the health and equality of people, STEM lessons engage students because they are relevant and cross-disciplinary.

Societal and workplace demands are the force behind the growth in STEM education. STEM addresses several scientific and technological issues and their broader implications, for example climate change, food crises, housing shortages, cloning, genetic testing, and chip implantation. 

Certainly, STEM education stands to improve the lives of many but many educators say it requires an ethical lens through which it can be applied. Today’s young people will be asked to solve tomorrow’s problems. They need to be creative and innovative problem-solvers. But, what about ethical?

The National Science Foundation seeks to have ethics be a foundation for STEM fields. Part of this includes integrating ethics concepts into STEM classes.

Ethics As Part of STEM Education

Ethical principles can be applied to many scenarios in STEM. Studying STEM through an ethical framework helps students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as make thoughtful decisions about technology and processes.

In a K-12 educational setting, teachers should consider the goals and objectives of STEM lessons. They can begin by guiding students to explore a case study or scenario and then discuss the questions surrounding the issue, according to an ethics primer provided by the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research.

Furthermore, lessons and discussions could address:

  • issues of accessibility
  • if a solution promotes common good
  • how to approach conflict
  • the background information needed to fully understand the issue
  • who or what is affected by the issue
  • the benefit and harm that might result from a solution

Some topics more easily introduce ethical discussions but teachers of all subjects can include ethical concepts into lessons. Ultimately, teachers should be able to help students understand the human impact of the technological solutions we adopt. The benefits of applying an ethical framework to STEM studies include:

  • an unbiased flow of ideas;
  • deeper consideration of the planet and its natural resources;
  • solutions that are not based solely on commercial demands for profit; and
  • encourages academic honesty and the integrity of research.

Include Ethics in STEM Curricula

Technology and the information highway provide people with vast amounts of opportunities and information. Students need to know how to navigate all of this and develop critical-thinking skills to make wise decisions. By enhancing their judgment, they can evaluate problems through an ethical lens.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s decision-makers in the workforce. Educators need to help students develop their ethical decision-making skills. In the Master’s in STEM Teaching program at Carlow, you will examine ethical issues and curricular models to more effectively teach STEM in the classroom.