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Developing effective learning through emotional engagement in the teaching of ethics

Written by: Jonathan Beale
5 min read
A runaway tram is on course to collide with five people on the tracks ahead. You, a bystander, are near a lever, which you could pull to divert the tram onto different tracks, on which there’s one person. If you pull the lever, one dies; if you do nothing, five die. Should you pull the lever? Imagine the same scenario but, instead of pulling a lever, you face the predicament of whether to push a very large man off a bridge into the path of the tram. This will prevent the tram killing the five but the man will die at your hand. Should you push him? These thought experiments can be utilised to introduce normative theories and often engender emotional responses. Among the advantages of the latter is that emotional engagement can be used to aid students’ learning about the former. What follows is a case study in using these dilemmas in the teaching of ethics as a means of developing effective learning through emotional engagement. The first is known as the ‘trolley problem

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