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  This module is a resource for lecturers  

 

Possible class structure

 

This section contains recommendations for a teaching sequence and timing intended to achieve learning outcomes through a three-hour class. The lecturer may wish to disregard or shorten some of the segments below in order to give more time to other elements, including introduction, icebreakers, conclusion or short breaks. The structure could also be adapted for shorter or longer classes, given that class durations vary across countries.

The three-hour session should be interactive and fun and lecturers should bring their own creative input into the classroom, informed by his or her own familiarity with local practices, beliefs and sensitivities. Ideally, students should be focusing on specific aspects of their lives in light of material presented at the beginning of each exercise, paying particular attention to strategies they might come up with to avoid the traps and snares that are part and parcel of living humanly. The Module is aimed at making students reflect on their own lives in relation to the material presented, and for this to happen students should be given a platform to share ideas and experiences, with the aim of co-creating understandings.

Introduction (10 min)

  • The lecturer introduces the Module, explaining its approach and rationale, focusing on the ambivalent nature of the features of ourselves being discussed (for instance, selective attention, conformity, the power that authority figures have over us, how being in certain situations pushes us to act in some ways and not others, and the role of good and bad incentive regimes).

Exercise 1: Failing to see what is right in front of you (20 min)

  • The lecturer presents the video material, offers a brief introduction of the issues to be discussed, and facilitates an interactive discussion.

Exercise 2: Darley and Batson's the Good Samaritan Experiment (30 min)

  • The lecturer presents the video material, offers a brief introduction of the issues to be discussed, and facilitates an interactive discussion.

Introduction and Exercises 1 and 2 should be conducted in one sitting of one hour as they work well together. Exercise 1 highlights the role, both positive and negative, of selective attention and Exercise 2 transposes the issue of selective attention into the moral sphere. Exercises 1 and 2 also introduce key themes that this Module aims to expose students to: the extent to which acting ethically is a matter of recognizing how basic psychological features about ourselves interact with environmental conditions (people passing balls or being in a rush) and how those psychological features are able to distort our ability to properly grasp what, from our own considered points of view, is ethically salient.

Exercise 3: Asch's Conformity Experiment (45 min)

  • The lecturer either presents the video material or pretends to be Solomon Asch and re-enacts the experiment with students (some students would have to be briefed beforehand).
  • The lecturer offers a brief introduction of the issues to be discussed, and facilitates an interactive discussion.

Exercise 4 or 5 (60 min)

  • Exercise 4: The Milgram Obedience Experiment: The lecturer presents the video material, offers a brief introduction of the issues to be discussed, and facilitates an interactive discussion.
  • Exercise 5: Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment: The lecturer presents the video material, offers a brief introduction of the issues to be discussed, and facilitates an interactive discussion.

Exercise 3 and Exercise 4 (or Exercise 5) should be done in one sitting of one hour as Asch's experiment illustrates the issue of conformity in a really stark and somewhat light-hearted way, while Milgram's and Zimbardo's experiment delve into the dark side of conformity to authority. Exercises 4 and 5 highlight many of the issues discussed previously and place emphasis on how the interrelationship between psychological mechanisms and external circumstances (a mock prison or incentive structures) deeply affect how people tend to act.

Conclusion (15 min)

  • The conclusion should emphasize how mechanisms that serve us well can also play tricks on us. Discuss with students the Module as a whole, focusing on strategies for avoiding the nefarious work that basic forces in us can do without us even noticing, particularly when reacting to corrupting environmental pressures. Focus also on the relationship between taking responsibility for our lives and ethical living.
 

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