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Education for ethics : investigating the contribution of animal studies to fostering ethical understanding in children


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Yorke, AJ 2016 , 'Education for ethics : investigating the contribution of animal studies to fostering ethical understanding in children', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Educational strategies with the explicit purpose of developing children’s understanding of ethical concepts and the enactment of ethical behaviours have evolved over time to address changing expectations. Over recent years, educational strategies involving animals have gained popularity and a number of questions arise from this. What are the aims and current approaches of animal-focused educational strategies? What is understood about the contribution of human-animal relationships to ethical development? Is it possible for animal-focused educational strategies to contribute to the realisation of the aims of the Australian Curriculum?
This study was initiated in response to an identified gap in existing research concerning the current aims of education for the promotion of ethical understanding, the role of human-animal relationships in the development of ethical understanding in children, and the potential contribution to education that could be made by recognition of the connection between these two aspects. The completion of this study fulfilled three objectives; to provide a critical review of current approaches to animal-focused educational strategies, to identify the role of human-animal relationships in the development of ethical understanding in children, and to investigate what contribution can be made by curriculum-based Animal Studies to the promotion of multidimensional ethical understanding in children.
The research objectives were addressed by employing a mixed methods research approach to conduct a small-scale case study in a one group pre-test – post-test convergent parallel design. A four-week Animal Studies Literacy Program was completed by students between pre-test – post-test administrations. In the absence of comparative studies or existing frameworks addressing the specific focus of this study, an investigative framework was constructed to include quantitative and qualitative data collection instruments. Quantitative instruments comprised the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2), the Griffiths Empathy Measure-Parent Report, the Pet Attitude Scale (Modified), and the Ethical Understanding Curriculum Questionnaire. Qualitative measures included group interviews and written responses to the Animal Studies Literacy Program. The sample population comprised 12 students enrolled in year 7 or year 8 and attending timetabled Literacy lessons, one parent or carer of each student participant, and two teachers. The setting was a Kindergarten-Year 10 Catholic College in Tasmania, Australia.
The study provides a comprehensive critical review of current animal-focused approaches relevant to the aims of education for the promotion of ethical understanding. The findings of the case study confirm the multidimensional nature of ethical understanding through the measurement of the development of the dimensions pertinent to ethical judgement, ethical sensitivity, ethical character, and ethical identity. The findings have global significance for the field of moral education and the multidisciplinary field of Animal Studies. The isolated assessment of individual dimensions of ethical understanding, to what extent these are being realised in the sample for this study, and how they may be better achieved has significance for the teaching and assessment of educational practices designed to foster the promotion of ethical understanding. Further, the findings of this study, which highlighted the potential role of human-animal relationships in children’s general development but more specifically in the multidimensional development of ethical understanding, will inform the appropriate inclusion of animal-focused educational strategies and the representation of animals within the educational environment. In researching these aspects, future consideration to the inclusion of Animal Studies in educational practices aimed at fostering the promotion of ethical understanding is encouraged

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Yorke, AJ
Keywords: Education, ethics, animal studies, ethical understanding, empathy, values, moral education, human-animal relationships
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Copyright 2016 the author

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