In the first session of its twenty-fourth meeting, the Bioethics Commission reviewed its current portfolio of educational materials and assessed how it might be expanded to reach new audiences. The Bioethics Commission heard from Elizabeth Pike, J.D., LL.M., a Senior Policy and Research Analyst at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues; Maneesha Sakhuja, M.H.S., a Research Analyst at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues; and Steven Kessler, M.S., an Instructor of Biological Sciences at the City College of San Francisco.
Pike described different kinds of educational materials. She explained how primers, for example, are intended to help specific audiences understand and implement the Commission’s recommendations in Anticipate and Communicate: Ethical Management of Incidental and Secondary Findings in the Clinical, Research, and Direct-to-Consumer Contexts. She also introduced the topic-based modules, noting how instructors can tailor the addition of cutting-edge topics in health, science, and technology to their classroom to stimulate students’ thinking about their impacts on society. Modules also allow instructors to choose among various activities including discussion questions, problem-based learning, and exercises based on optional additional resources.
Sakhuja continued the discussion by more closely diving into the public health case studies. These case exercises present a detailed description of a case based on real-life public health events, describe relevant analysis from the Bioethics Commission’s deliberations, and prompt engaged discussion. For example, the Communicating During a Public Health Emergency case situates readers in the role of a public information officer in a city health department after learning of a confirmed case of Ebola in a nearby hospital. The case then presents readers with relevant analysis from the Bioethics Commission and asks readers to answer questions about how to proceed with communicating to the public. Sakhuja also unveiled a forthcoming educational material format—deliberative scenarios—slated to be released in Spring 2016. The deliberative scenarios will help high school and college students develop deliberative skills in the classroom by practicing forming a consensus and proposing a course of action by incorporating a variety of perspectives. Each scenario is accompanied with a teacher’s companion to help guide and support the deliberation.
Wrapping up the panel, Kessler informed the Bioethics Commission about his use of the discussion guides in biology classes at the City College of San Francisco. The discussion guides were designed to be appropriate for teachers without expertise in ethics and intended to start conversations about bioethics in a way that was accessible to high school and college students.
The Bioethics Commission will continue the meeting with a member discussion about the educational materials.