2. An Island Ethics Course

Welcome to the Students:

There are a group of islands in the ocean that have been abandoned. Each of you will inhabit the islands, with your classmates, for the next 10 weeks.

Once you have chosen which island to inhabit, you will create  a code of conduct (AKA Ethics Code) for your island. This will describe proper behavior for anyone who lives on or comes to your island.

Additionally, your island is a part of a group of islands that have decided to unify. You will also need to create a charter for these islands (later in the course).

Throughout the course, your island must work as a group to accomplish all tasks within the course and ultimately be The Most Ethical Island…

First Impressions:

# of Students: 6-17

The day class was composed of 6 students and the Evening course was composed of 17 students.  It was a mixture from different departments, including Culinary, IT, Health Science, but no business students.

Seating arrangements:

The students initially sat in straight rows scattered throughout the room in the Day course. The islands were not visible. I asked the students to first organize the room into islands. They looked at me quizzically and then began to walk toward a table. The tables are 2′ by 6′ arranged in several rows- not islands. I asked if they would leave the far left wall open so we could work on a poster (which included a vin diagram entitled: Do You Think We Need a Code of Conduct?). I started to help the students make 4 sets of 3 tables with the chairs placed around the perimeter of the “islands.” The students then began to sit at opposite ends of the room inhabiting many “islands.” I then asked the 6 students who arrived on time to split into 2 islands.

The students in the Night course walked into a room with island’s already created.

Overview of course:

I began to explain the idea for the course. The course grades would be divided into 4 sections: Life Application (8 at home assignments); Discussion (8 discussion topics); Final Project (25% taken by the least ethical islands); and Ethics Points (awarded 8 times by the ethic’s officer). Additionally, there is a Most Ethical Island award given each week. The team that collects the most Most Ethical Island awards throughout the term may choose to forgo the final and proceed to an island party. The reasoning behind this is that, if a group of students are the Most Ethical Island, they have ideally mastered all the Ethics’ concepts throughout the course and therefore don’t need a final evaluation to see that they got it.

Laying the foundation that we need rules:

The first obstacle was to have the student decide whether or not rules are needed- I needed them to need rules. The plan was to have a vin diagram on the wall that allowed students to answer, “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe.” Most students chose No (saying, “We are all adults”) and Maybe (I don’t, but my island friends might”). No students chose Yes. The students were encouraged to get up and change their mind at anytime should issues arise and rules be needed.

The first attempt:

“We don’t need rules” was the consensus. However, the first challenge to this was to introduce a game, Scrabble. Half the islands were forced to play by Scrabble rules. The other half were allowed to make up their own rules. The students were then asked whether they wanted to change their vote on the Vin Diagram.

The Second attempt:

Next, I showed a 16 minute video on a Syphilis Experiment. The students were then asked whether they wanted to change their vote on the Vin Diagram.

On To the Code:

Islands were then asked to construct a group identity through making an Island Flag and then an Island Code of Conduct.


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