According to James Rest, dilemma discusiion should facilitate the first 3 of the 4 following abilities:

  • Identification of and sensitivity to moral issues
  • Identification of possible alternatives
  • Selection of alternatives
  • Implementation (successful) of the selected alternative

Participants get experience in role-playing different viewpoints, in engaging in dialogue about those differences, and in hearing the opinions/views of others at a higher stage (whether it be the teacher or their peers) which pushes them to another level. Because they are tlaking small groups, everyone gets to participate, there are likely to be differing but equally valid views and the Piagetian process of disequilibration can take place. in resolving it, students move to a higher level of moral reasoning. Classical or hypothetical dilemmas allow two goods to be opposed against one anohter. They are less personal and constrained by practical or normative concerns. Real life dilemmas may nto have two opposing goods and may involve only one moral issue and more uncertainty as to the “ideal” solution. They are also more constrained by practical concerns.

Dilemma discussions are limited by the fact that they only *talk* about moral conflicts but don’t show actions. Nor can they include all possible facets or provide clear-cut anaswers. Classical or hypothetical situations don’t address the real-life problems and consequences or their broader impact on society and the person’s environment. But they can serve as a good starting point in a larger program (like the Just Community). Dilemma discussions have been used as Kohlberg and Batt used them, as part of Personality Development using experiential activities adn self-reflection and as part of academic courses. Apparently the last method was the least effective without some more discussion or interactivity, thought just teaching Kohlberg’s theory helped some.

Dilemma discussions can be used professional education–such as in case studies and medical education. The kind of metacognitive reflection encouraged by dilemma discussions encourages the growth of people as autonomous, self-regulated and reflective practitioners and human beings. At the end of these ethical programs, people should be able to:

  • apply the guiding ethics of their profession (ALA Bill of Rights, for ex.)
  • recognize interpret and act upon moral issues
  • understand how their actions relate to the profession as a whole and their individual customers
  • develop into reflective professionals
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