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Project Title:Teaching Ethical Reasoning in Secondary Education in Hong Kong
Project Investigator:Prof. Shun-hing Chan
Duration:One year
Partnering organization:Curriculum Development Institute (CDI), Education Bureau, HKSAR Government
Name of the funding scheme & amount (if any)Knowledge Transfer Partnership Seed Fund, Hong Kong Baptist University
Introduction of the projectThis is a study about nurturing citizenship by introducing a new pedagogy in secondary education. The beneficiaries are teachers and students in 90 secondary schools in Hong Kong. Students generally found that ethics were difficult to understand due to the discrepancy between Western theories and the local context. Professor Chan developed a new programme advocating a pedagogy using local materials in teaching ethical reasoning, which was effective in helping students to study ethical issues and learn to be responsible citizens. This programme was adopted by the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) of the Education Bureau in 2018.
Underpinning Research

Teaching religion and ethics is a difficult task in Hong Kong’s secondary schools because of the discrepancy between Western theories and the local context. Hong Kong students find that the theories are difficult to understand and the examples are irrelevant to their everyday life experience. 


Professor Chan advocated a pedagogical practice emphasising the use of materials related to indigenous religions and local contexts to teach religion and ethics. Using action research, he tested the effectiveness of the local materials in teaching and learning in the classroom. He elaborates in “Western Theory, Indigenous Religion, and Local Material: Enhancing Learning Motivation among Students of Religious Studies in the Asian Context” (Chan 2001a) how he included indigenous religions in his teaching materials for his course “Religion and Modern Society” and how he employed the four steps of action research (initial reflection, planning, action, and observation) to refine the instructional materials in the process of teaching and learning (Chan 2001b). 


In 2017-2018, Prof. Chan conducted a knowledge transfer project entitled “Teaching Ethical Reasoning in Secondary Education in Hong Kong,” and developed a new programme emphasising the pedagogical practice of using local materials for teaching ethical reasoning to students at the level of forms 4 to 6. He partnered with the CDI and recruited six teachers from different secondary schools to form a taskforce, which developed 17 lesson plans, based on 17 reflection papers composed by HKBU students, on ethical reasoning for the module “Personal and Social Issues” of the subject “Ethics and Religious Studies” in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. Inspired by the education philosophies and pedagogies of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, and Henry Giroux, he included four elements in 17 lesson plans (Chan 2020): 


  • Using local issues as teaching and learning materials: The 17 lesson plans discussed local issues based on news stories in Hong Kong; 
  • Providing exemplary articles as reading materials: The reflection papers of HKBU students played the role of “More Knowledgeable Others,” demonstrating how to use ethical concepts and theories to discuss moral and social issues in Hong Kong; 
  • Providing instructional scaffolding in teaching and learning ethical reasoning: The teaching and learning materials provided elementary and advanced levels of illustration explaining the arguments formulated by the authors of the exemplary articles; 
  • Enhancing students’ sense of citizenship via teaching ethical reasoning: The learning materials provided moral and social issues for students to learn how to be informed citizens in Hong Kong. 

The lesson plans were published by the CDI in June 2018 under the title Resource Booklet of Ethical Reasoning (289 pages). 

Details of Impact

The aim of the new programme was to empower teachers in teaching ethical reasoning and to facilitate secondary school students in learning how to formulate arguments when they discussed moral and ethical issues and to express counter-arguments when they encountered positions and arguments differing from their own. The educational value of this work is premised on the belief that understanding ethical reasoning is the basis of nurturing responsible citizens. 


Empowering the community of teachers with new concepts and skills 

The CDI announced the new programme in a Knowledge Enrichment Seminar on 12 June 2018, and 70 secondary school teachers attended. Professor Chan explained the new concepts and skills of the pedagogical practice to the attendees. A survey was conducted after the seminar  and the responses were positive. In 2018, 90 secondary schools offered Ethics and Religious Studies for their students, to which the CDI sent the programme materials and the booklet. 


Enhancing students’ skills of ethical reasoning 

Two members of the taskforce used the lesson plans of “ethics of life and death” and “business ethics” provided in the programme materials in their classes from February to June 2018 respectively. The students’ scores generally increased, as indicated by the results of the pre-tests and post-tests . 


Nurturing citizenship via ethical reasoning 

Six teachers in five secondary schools recommended by the Hong Kong Association of Ethics and Religious Education allowed Professor Chan to study the effectiveness of the programme in their schools from September 2018 to May 2019. The study showed that the students’ scores on ethical reasoning generally increased, as indicated by the results of pre-tests and post-tests. In the interviews, the teachers and students affirmed that the programme was useful in advancing their knowledge and skills of ethical reasoning, and the students generally agreed that it enhanced their sense of citizenship . 

Reference Link to Research
  1. (Shun-hing Chan. 2001a. “Western Theory, Indigenous Religion, and Local Material: Enhancing Learning Motivation among Students of Religious Studies in the Asian Context.” Teaching Theology and Religion 4(1): 32–39. 
  2. Shun-hing Chan. 2001b. “Religious Inquiry as Existential Question in Context: An Action Research Study in Religious Education.” In The Compendium of Selected Teaching Development Grants Projects, 107–119. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Baptist University. 
  3. Shun-hing Chan. 2020. “Nurturing Responsible Citizens: Pedagogical Practice in Teaching Ethical Reasoning.” In Education Curriculum Development: Perspectives, Challenges, and Future Directions, edited by Marco Jutila. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Reference Link to ImpactThe Taskforce of Ethical Reasoning, Resource Booklet on Ethical Reasoning. Hong Kong: The Curriculum Development Institute of the Education Bureau, 2018. 

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