“The Darkness Around Us is Deep”: Using Narrative to Model Reflection and Promote Engagement in Business Ethics Education

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Kathleen Burke, Beedie School of Business

Project team: TBD

Timeframe: November 2018 to April 2020

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: BUS 303 – Business, Society and Ethics

Description: The purpose of this project is to design a reflective inquiry scaffold to support the integration of an extended podcast episode into the curriculum by supporting learning synthesis, fostering emotional-awareness regarding business and ethics, and deepening reflective thinking in the context of learning about business ethics. 

BUS303 is a required course in the Bachelor of Business Administration curriculum that expects students to go beyond attending class, reading and listening to course content, and completing assignments – they are expected to be self-aware in the process of learning, to consider their values and beliefs, to reflect on their past experiences, present understandings and imagine how they would respond to situations in the future. Such expectations can make some students uncomfortable. They often ask for examples of reflection to help them understand how to proceed. Although I have written exercises and personally model reflection in the classroom, these resources and practices are limited in their instructional capacity in capturing the complexity of lived experience. Integrating a reflective narrative throughout the class may better support and model what reflection entails and looks like alongside navigating ethical complexity in the workplace. 

The podcast I plan to use portrays moral complexity in the workplace and decision-making nuances that could benefit my students. The podcast’s example of reflective descriptions of experience are rich with swings of emotions such as certainty and doubt when confronting an ethically troublesome workplace. One of the greatest assets and hurdles of moral decision-making is feeling. Hence, I want to develop a method for isolating aspects of the narrative, weaving those segments through the curriculum and developing prompts and activities to accompany the narrative in a manner that will promote emotional engagement and exemplify ideas in action. 

With the integration of podcast excerpts into the curriculum, I hope students will learn to:

  • Reflect more deeply on the ethical tensions in business
  • Engage emotion and the role it plays in the way we experience ethical dilemmas and decision making
  • Integrate and synthesize what they are learning

As an instructor, I also aim to learn how to best introduce, integrate and facilitate discussion of narratives of moral complexity at work. I aim to identify the teaching requirements necessary to facilitate difficult conversations about ethics that the podcast content is likely to surface and explore strategies and resources to develop and maintain trust in the classroom.

Questions addressed:

  • How did the integration of the podcast narrative support student reflective learning?
  • How do students describe their emotions relative to the unfolding ethical tensions in the narrative?
  • How does the narrative support the synthesis of learning?
  • What is the instructor’s experience of developing this intervention, facilitating classroom conversations and evaluating student assessments?
  • What are students’ opinions on the usefulness of the narrative to support their learning and understanding?

Knowledge sharing: I have already been discussing this project with colleagues and plan to continue to have these informal/impromptu conversations. I also hope to share what I learn at a Teaching and Learning Brown Bag or more widely, at Beedie School of Business’ annual Teaching and Learning luncheon.