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A Writing and Ethics Component for a Quantum Mechanics, Physical Chemistry Course

Journal of College Science Teaching—March/April 2010

A writing-across-the-curriculum and ethics component is presented for a second-semester, physical chemistry course. The activity involves introducing ethical issues pertinent to scientists. Students are asked to read additional material, participate in discussions, and write essays and a paper on an ethical issue. The writing and discussion component provides another opportunity for students to read and think about broader ethical issues in the scientific community. Two items were found to make the writing element successful: (1) some type of student support for writing (workshop, writing center, etc.) and (2) a guest lecture from a philosophy faculty member to review ethical theories. In addition, a pre- and postforum questionnaire concerning ethical issues for scientists was given to students. Directional differences in agreement were found for such issues as limits on the pursuit of knowledge, development of weapons of mass destruction, and how well-rounded scientists should be.
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