How To Ask Ethical Questions In Lessons

What Are Ethical Questions?

Ethical questions are values-based questions which contain moral choices and dilemmas.

They positively disrupt prior beliefs and attitudes and therefore promote critical thinking. 

They allow the respondent to provide multiple, alternative solutions, but all of which will be problematic to justify and come to terms with from an ethical perspective.

Ethical Questions are a great question type for teachers to use so it is important you understand how to ask ethical questions in your lessons.

Ethical questions are just one of many question types that teachers can ask in lessons. To find out about other types of questions you should check out the article below:

18 Types Of Questions teachers Can Ask In Lessons

VIDEO: Ethical Questions Explained

Examples of Ethical Questions

  • How should we decide who receives organ transplants?
  • Should animals be kept in zoos?
  • Is it ethical to change to a meat-free diet even though many insects and small mammals are killed in the production of fruit and vegetables? 
  • You are stuck in the snow with your mum and dad but only have two blankets between you. Who should get the blankets?
  • If you were homeless and you found something expensive, would you turn it in to the police or keep it?
  • Would you risk your life to save another person?
  • Would you go back into a burning house to save your favourite pet?
  • If the cashier in a superstore gave you too much change would you go back to the store and return it? If not, would you act the same if it was a small family-owned store?
  • If you could save ten people by killing one person, would you?
  • If you saw a a thief stealing someone’s wallet on a bus, what would you do?

When And How To Ask Ethical Questions In The Classroom

Ethical questions could be used at any stage of a lesson.

Ideally, ethical questions should be related to the topic being taught as they provide a good opportunity for students to engage with some associated themes which have a contradictory nature.

However, they could be used purely for the promotion of the high order thinking skills that are required to explore ethical problems and solutions.

Ethical questions are a good option for lesson starters as they will generate a very thoughtful discussion and debate around the topic.

They can also be used as part of a plenary to encourage students to reflect on the topic they have learned in a more critical way.

Or ethical questions can be used within the lesson whenever the teacher feels it is appropriate to the context of the lesson.

For further information on how to ask ethical questions in the classroom, there are a number of interesting case studies which can be easily found online. 

What Are The Benefits Of Asking Ethical Questions In Lessons?

Ethical questions promote higher order thinking skills, promote new thinking and therefore new learning.

They require high levels of reflection, analysis, evaluation and justification.

Ethical questions will create cognitive dissonance in the minds of the students, which will force them to evaluate two opposing, contradictory thoughts or opinions.

It is the process of resolving this contradiction where learning can take place.

In order to resolve this contradiction the student will need to either changed or reprioritise their perspective on one of the opposing thoughts or the student will need to change their behaviour in some way.

These changes in thought and behaviour are aligned with new learning.

Author: Jonathan Sandling