McDonough School of Business
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Teaching the Teachers: A New Approach to Ethics Pedagogy

Peter Jaworski leads a session during the Workshop on Teaching Professional Ethics through Experiential Learning

In May, the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics held its first “Workshop on Teaching Professional Ethics through Experiential Learning.” The two-day workshop, held May 14-15 at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, brought together 16 professors from across the country for sessions to learn the institute’s unique approach to ethics pedagogy. The faculty will take the knowledge they gained back to their home institutions to use in their classrooms.

“The purpose of this workshop isn’t to present you with a course syllabus and say ‘here’s what to do,’” John Hasnas, executive director of the institute and professor of ethics, told the participants. “The purpose is to expose you to a variety of useful techniques. We hope you’ll find one or two that you’d like to try in your classrooms. We also hope that you will keep in touch with us and tell us what worked and what didn’t. In this way, we will learn from each other and continually improve our product.”

The Georgetown method of teaching business ethics through experiential learning employs language readily understood by business students and requires actual ethical decision-making on the part of the students. Georgetown McDonough faculty — including Hasnas, Peter Jaworski, assistant teaching professor, and Jason Brennan, associate professor of ethics— have found the approach results in students becoming more invested in the course and more committed to successfully resolving the ethical issues that confront them in a business environment.

Business ethicists should think beyond “questions of how to apply abstract principles in idealized circumstances,” said participant Kyle Swan, assistant professor of philosophy at California State University, Sacramento.

“What can we do that will work to align the interests of business decision makers with the interests of the public and other business stakeholders?” Swan asked. “The Georgetown approach does a better job addressing that question and teaching it to students — future business decision makers — than any other I’ve seen.”

This workshop is the beginning of a larger project. In the future, the Georgetown faculty plan to have all of their materials online in a downloadable toolkit for educators around the world to use.