Ethics: A class designed by itself

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“What should we do?”  That was one of the central questions of the Ethics course I took this block. In order to give a general idea about the evolution of ideas in the discipline and how they conflicted with one another, we analyzed works of several key thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, and Levinas. From this description you could easily create a syllabus that would look similar to an Ethics 101 course. However, when I first glanced over the course’s schedule, it was blank beyond the first two days.

During the first class it became clear that my tutor had decided to take an entirely different approach this block. He seemed to be experimenting with the question: “How would a block go, if the syllabus was designed on-the-go by the students?”

The first days we started off with a short introduction into philosophy and the study of ethics. But on the third day, we were asked: “What do you want to study next?” and “In what order should we go through those materials?” From that point onward, two moments per week were set aside for the class to voice their opinions about the progress of the course and discuss what types of assessments we would prefer. Obviously there were some standard assessments, but we were highly encouraged by the tutor to play around with different forms of effective group projects and assessment that promoted OUR learning.

In the beginning I was a bit skeptical whether this approach to course creation would work out, but it actually did! Within no time we where having some of the most stimulating class discussions that I’ve had at Quest. The co-operation during group projects was very smooth, and the ideas presented during group presentations were very creative, insightful, and moving.

It was eye-opening to see how motivated students become when they are given the space to facilitate their own learning. The tutor’s approach provided a platform to not only get a deeper understanding of the subject matter of the course, but also of the members of the class.

This really became clear in the final project of the course. For this project we decided each group would examine an applied ethical issue from the real world and apply different schools of thought to the issue. We were expected to express our findings in some type of creative format. It wasn’t specified what type of project this needed to be, as long as it was creative. In order to get the creative juices flowing, the tutor invited us to come up with different topics, and then form groups according to the topics. The messages were conveyed through video, song, poetry and sketches, and discussed the ethical implications of issues like foreign aid, Islamophobia, refugees, technological progress, anti-feminism, and the spread of hatred online. Each project was incredibly moving. It was very clear that all groups put in a lot of effort and were personally involved in their projects.

For me, this course reminded me of how amazing all the different individuals at this university are. It was a great example of how education can be totally different than a course with a standard syllabus and schedule. Being part of a course that designed itself was a very interesting experience.

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