GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 83-13
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


FORE, Grant, STEM Education Innovation and Research Institute, IUPUI, 755 W. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202 and LICHT, Kathy, Department of Earth Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 723 West Michigan Street, SL 118, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Reflective writing assignments in a Sedimentology course required students to critically consider the relationships between the ethical purposes of the geosciences, the ethical conduct of geoscientists, and their own experiences related to fieldwork throughout the semester. We analyzed the reflections of students using Joan Tronto’s conceptualization of an ethic of care, particularly three of the four key elements of care: attentiveness, responsibility, and competence.

Students often characterized society, the planet, and their adopted discipline as things for which they must show care. For example, many students reflected on how, in their scientific work, they were attentive to and took responsibility for societal needs and expressed concern over balancing those needs with the needs of the planet. This often took shape in terms of competence, particularly in regards to the accuracy and integrity of their data collection efforts. This was also expressed in terms that evoked trustworthiness. Being a geoscientist, for many students, required a deep concern for competence in one’s scientific practice, since this competence was central to how a scientist cares for society, the planet, and their discipline. Some students also acknowledged that being a caring scientist required significant work on their own selves, through monitoring and accountability for their successes and failures.

By having students critically reflect upon their geoscience experiences through an ethical lens, students were able to articulate a connection between scientific competence, their personal values, and the public purposes of their disciplinary learning. As students strove to be caring people, they had to competently wield whatever tools (e.g., geoscience knowledge/skills, moral values) they had at their disposal to provide adequate care within their immediate work setting. This study raises questions about how an ethic of care framing may 1) disrupt the view of ethics as an appendage to academic disciplines, 2) contribute to the construction of more diverse and just educational environments, and 3) suggest that our disciplines – their theories and practices – become the instruments of our caring, the instruments we use to live the ethical lives we desire.