The purpose of this research paper is to examine the early stages of a research project aimed at evaluating the pedagogic effectiveness of a teaching module in computing ethics.
Scores of students' cognitive capabilities to make moral judgements were measured before and after they had taken the module by means of the “Defining Issues Test” (DIT). This is a standard test of students' capability to make moral judgement based on the work of Lawrence Kohlberg. Interviews were then used to help understand the results of the test.
Results revealed low mean scores of post‐conventional (P Score) thinking skills and wide variation in overall scores of capability for moral judgement. Interviews with the students about the course and the test revealed the importance of understanding students' beliefs about the importance of ethics in interpreting the results.
Difficulties in matching “before and after” results for each subject limited the sample size in what was an early step in the overall research project.
The results point towards the importance of addressing students' own understanding of the importance of ethics when teaching computing ethics.
The paper reveals some of the limitations of tests of capabilities for moral judgement which rely on strongly individualistic notions of ethics. It enables a new appreciation to be made of the strengths and weaknesses of assessing student moral development in higher education in terms of cognitive factors.
Jagger, S. and Strain, J. (2007), "Assessing students' ethical development in computing with the defining issues test: Challenges to be addressed", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 33-42. https://doi.org/10.1108/14779960710822674Download as .RIS
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