Students learn to develop ethical understanding as they explore ethical issues and interactions with others, discuss ideas, and learn to be accountable as members of a democratic community.
In this context, students need regular opportunities to identify and make sense of the ethical dimensions in their learning. As ethics is largely concerned with what we ought to do and how we ought to live, students need to understand how people can inquire collaboratively and come to ethical decisions. They need the skills to explore areas of contention, select and justify an ethical position, and engage with and understand the experiences and positions of others. These skills promote students’ confidence as decision-makers and foster their ability to act with regard for others. Skills are enhanced when students have opportunities to put them into practice in their learning; for example, understanding the importance of applying appropriate ethical practices in areas such as Australian Indigenous studies (AIATSIS 2011).
Students also need to explore values, rights and responsibilities to assist them in justifying their ethical position and in engaging with the position of others.
The processes of reflecting on and interrogating core ethical issues and concepts underlie all areas of the curriculum. These include justice, right and wrong, freedom, truth, identity, empathy, goodness and abuse.
Processes of inquiring into ethical issues include giving reasons, being consistent, finding meanings and causes, and providing proof and evidence. Interrogating such concepts through authentic cases such as global warming, sustainable living and socioeconomic disparity can involve group and independent inquiry, critical and creative thinking, and cooperative teamwork, and can contribute to personal and social learning.
As students engage with these elements in an integrated way, they learn to recognise the complexity of many ethical issues. They develop a capacity to make reasoned ethical judgments through the investigation of a range of questions drawn from varied contexts in the curriculum.
For a description of the organising elements for Ethical understanding, select Organising elements.