Moral reasoning in genetics education

Paul Van Der Zande, Mieke Brekelmans, Jan D. Vermunt, Arend Jan Waarlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Recent neuropsychological research suggests that intuition and emotion play a role in our reasoning when we are confronted with moral dilemmas. Incorporating intuition and emotion into moral reflection is a rather new idea in the educational world, where rational reasoning is preferred. To develop a teaching and learning strategy to address this moral reflection, a developmental research project aimed at empowering biology teachers for moral education in context-based genetics was started. The initial focus was on how intuitive and emotive considerations are dealt with in current moral education. Fifteen pre-university students were interviewed on their way of reasoning by confronting them with real-life situations. Next, eight experienced biology teachers were interviewed about their approach to moral education, and about their views on student reasoning. These findings were contrasted with suggestions found in literature on moral reasoning. All students used intuitive, emotive, and 'rationalistic' considerations during the interviews. Teachers reported that they observed students using intuition and emotion in their reasoning. However, the conceptual distinction between emotive and intuitive reasoning proved to be difficult for students and teachers. Neither the educational literature nor the interviews yielded an clear pedagogical approach in which such considerations played a role in moral reflection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-36
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Moral reasoning
  • Genetics education
  • Context-concept approach


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