טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentGreen Gizell
SubjectA Model for Social Constructivist Online Education in
Ethics of Research for Science and Engineering
Graduate Students
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Miriam Barak
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

Education for responsible conduct of research (RCR) has become a vital part of researchers’ training worldwide. RCR education is most important in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, since they involve sensitive and high-risk use of human subjects, lab animals, etc. Past studies have identified case-based learning and classroom discourse as successful methods for RCR education since it facilitates ethical decision making, by engaging STEM students with ethical deliberation on RCR topics.

In recent years, ethics education is shifting toward distance online learning that includes reading contents and closed-ended examinations. Although previous studies have identified effective instructional methods for RCR education, it is unclear how and in what manner these methods can be applied in a distance learning. This current study was set to design, implement, and evaluate a model for online education in ethics of research, for STEM graduate students. 

The proposed study was conducted among 649 graduates' students in STEM research at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. The study included two studies: preliminary and main studies. Both studies were guided by the mixed methods embedded approach. The preliminary study was set to identify advanced online instructional methods. The findings indicated a need for a shift from individual, content-based, conventional online learning to a social constructive approach. These findings led to the generation of the collaborative, case-based, and contextual (C3) instructional model.

The main study applied quasi-experimental research to evaluate the effectiveness of the model. The participants were divided into two groups: conventional online learning vs. C3 online learning. Data were collected via survey, pre- and post-questionnaires, and interviews. The findings indicated that while the conventional group advanced their content knowledge, the C3 group advanced also procedural and epistemic knowledge. The conventional group indicated limited awareness to ethical dilemmas, while the C3 group indicated expanded awareness. In addition, the C3 participants indicated the importance of social responsibility.   

The contribution of this study is threefold: theoretical, methodological, and practical. The theoretical contribution adds a layer to the growing body of knowledge on social constructivist learning by presenting the online instructional model. The C3 design integrates experts modeling (case-based), meaningful discourse (collaboration), and the use of metacognitive strategies (contextualization). The methodological contribution includes construction and validation of two scoring rubrics for examining students’ RCR knowledge and ethical awareness. The practical contribution includes the construction of an online course according to the model, delivered to graduate students. The C3 model and the two scoring rubrics may provide learning framework for ‘Ethics of Research’ courses.

There are three limitations to the research. First, the research was conducted in one academic institute, which might limit the generalizability of the results. However, this concern was addressed since findings indicated that the participants had similar socio-demographic characteristics as students from other science and engineering universities. Second, the participants were not randomly distributed into control and experiment groups. However, the groups had similar academic and demographic background. Third, student's behavior was examined through self-reported interviews. To reduce social desirability, they were conducted in two iterations.