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Ethical Capability

  1. F-2
  2. 3-4
  3. 5-6
  4. 7-8
  5. 9-10

Foundation to Level 2

Foundation to Level 2 Description

From Foundation to Level 2, the curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and understandings to approach ethical problems and evaluate outcomes. Students develop a vocabulary to engage with ethical problems and an understanding that personal feelings can effect decision-making and actions.

Foundation to Level 2 Content Descriptions

Understanding Concepts

  1. Explore the meaning of right and wrong, good and bad, as concepts concerned with the outcomes of acts (VCECU001)
    1. exploring how the terms good, bad, right and wrong are used in different ways and identifying whether these are concerned with ethical outcomes, for example, ‘she is good at kicking a football’, ‘he is a good person’, ’this is a good drawing/design solution’, ‘it is wrong to give money to a beggar’, ‘winning was good’
    2. using the term ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to describe a choice and exploring whether this reflects consideration of a likely outcome, for example, identifying a game rule ‘youngest goes first’ as a good or bad rule of a game and examining if the reasons are influenced by perception of the outcome

Decision Making and Actions

  1. Explore the type of acts often considered right and those often considered wrong and the reasons why they are considered so (VCECD002)
    1. considering a range of actions and typical reasons people use to justify whether an act is right or wrong, for example, whether the action breaks rules or results in harm
    2. exploring the reasons for a widely held remembrance or commemoration, for example, the meaning and significance of Australia Day as a public holiday
    3. identifying acts many people associate with good and bad behaviours and discussing reasons for these, for example, behaviour in groups such as teams, audiences or social communities
    4. classifying acts as right and/or wrong and discussing what is common and different in the reasons why, for example, sharing a small amount of water between many thirsty people, pushing someone out of the way and copying, appropriating or reworking someone’s ideas or solutions
  2. Explore the effects that personal feelings can have on how people behave in situations where ethical issues are involved (VCECD003)
    1. comparing the deliberations and actions of people who share a problem but experience different feelings, and reflecting on the influence feelings have on the outcome, for example, conflict over the sharing of a reward for a group effort
    2. examining a range of issues to determine if feelings are important in reaching the best decision and why, for example, reaching a decision on who to invite to a party, or what jail sentence a judge should hand down
    3. discussing whether a machine or robot would be able to make the best decisions in particular situations without being able to feel

Foundation to Level 2 Achievement Standard

By the end of Level 2, students identify and describe ethical concepts using illustrative examples from familiar situations and a basic vocabulary about ethical problems and their outcomes.

Students identify and explain acts and situations that have ethical dimensions, using illustrative examples. They explain that personal feelings may influence the way people behave in situations where ethical issues are involved.

Levels 3 and 4

Levels 3 and 4 Description

In Levels 3 and 4, the curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and understandings to evaluate particular acts, and to identify and critically respond to ethical problems. Students extend their vocabulary and begin to reflect on means and ends. Students develop an understanding that particular acts and their outcomes can be valued differently by different people, and extend their understanding of factors that may effect decision-making and actions.

Levels 3 and 4 Content Descriptions

Understanding Concepts

  1. Explore the contested meaning of concepts including fairness and harm and how they can seem to differ in different situations (VCECU004)
    1. testing a proposed definition of fairness as equal treatment by considering whether an older sibling should do more at home or whether there should be special parking places
    2. testing a proposed definition of harm as involving a deliberate intention that caused mental or physical suffering, by considering whether an accidental injury to someone on the playground is harmful or whether taking offence to teasing or a joke is a choice
    3. exploring the concept of fairness by setting a task where resources are distributed unevenly and reflecting on the desirability of the outcomes
  2. Explore the extent to which particular acts might be regarded by different people as good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse, and explain why (VCECU005)
    1. inquiring into a proposal and examining reasons for a range of views on its desirability, for example, proposals to improve sustainability or resolve a local civic issue
    2. investigating whether there are differences over time in views about issues such as treatment of animals in zoos and reasons for this
    3. comparing different responses to a problem and classifying them as better or worse using a thinking tool and comparing the classifications with others and how the judgements were reached
  3. Discuss the ways to identify ethical considerations in a range of problems (VCECU006)
    1. considering questions such as ‘does this matter and why?’, ‘is this about something where the outcome can be judged good, bad, right or wrong?’ for usefulness in identifying an ethical problem
    2. identifying an ethical problem, such as whether to help a friend or stranger first and considering questions such as ‘Who is involved and how are they likely to be affected?’ and ‘Does this involve breaking a rule or other commitment?’
    3. using if…then reasoning to identify possible consequences as an ethical consideration in a situation, for example, if animals thought to be cuter were protected ahead of other animals then…

Decision Making and Actions

  1. Explore how apparently wrong actions can sometimes lead to good outcomes and the reverse (VCECD007)
    1. using examples to show how an act could lead to good or bad outcomes, or both, such as an act of generosity (for example sharing lunch, helping a friend with homework, providing welfare) or selfishness or greed; or an act of apparent duty (for example keeping a promise or being respectful, or honest)
    2. evaluating the consequences of responses to problems and whether these were intended or foreseeable, for example, playing a prank on someone
    3. researching changes of opinion before, during and after a development in the local community
  2. Discuss the role of personal values and dispositions in ethical decision-making and actions (VCECD008)
    1. exploring, as part of a character analysis in a narrative such as Harry Potter or Aesop’s fables, questions such as: What do characters say and do that might suggest their dispositions? To what extent are dispositions such as being honest, cautious, persistent, selfish, proud, or empathetic necessary for ethical decision-making? Can someone be honest and brave and yet make the wrong choice? Are there some dispositions that are more important than others?
    2. undertaking research to identify dispositions and values commonly associated with significant community leaders, heroes, sport champions and celebrities and discussing what counts as a desirable disposition and reasons for disagreements
    3. discussing the actions of a character over time, for example, the father or friends in the book/film 'How to Train Your Dragon', to determine the values implicit or explicit in decision-making and what may cause personal values to be questioned

Levels 3 and 4 Achievement Standard

By the end of Level 4, students use concrete examples from a range of contexts to explain the contested meaning of concepts and significance of acts. They explain how to identify ethical considerations in problems.

Students use examples to evaluate ethical actions in relation to their outcomes. They explain the role of personal values and dispositions in ethical decision-making and actions, recognising areas of contestability.

Levels 5 and 6

Levels 5 and 6 Description

In Levels 5 and 6, the curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and understandings to evaluate the significance of ethical matters. Students explore the basis of a range of ethical principles and reflect on means and ends. Students consider decision-making approaches based on thinking about the consequences and duties. Students develop an understanding that a range of factors play a role in ethical decision-making.

Levels 5 and 6 Content Descriptions

Understanding Concepts

  1. Examine the contested meaning of concepts including truth and happiness and the extent to which these concepts are and should be valued (VCECU009)
    1. using ethical dilemmas, as a prompt for exploring whether it is ever desirable to lie, for example, lying to protect a friend from getting into trouble, to stop someone’s feelings being hurt, or about an injury in order to get picked for a team
    2. asking a range of people what their views on happiness are, how important it is and what is necessary for happiness
    3. investigating whether everyone should have the right to be happy and if so, whether this is possible, using as stimulus issues of treatment of prisoners or bullies, or how much the wealthy should help the poor or the strong the weak
  2. Discuss how ethical principles can be used as the basis for action, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought on these principles (VCECU010)
    1. investigating some common ethical principles, for example, ‘always treat people as ends not means’ (philosopher Immanuel Kant), and ‘actions are right in proportion to whether they promote happiness’ (philosopher John Stuart Mill), and comparing how they might be applied to a particular situation, for example, whether to participate in a fund raising event.
    2. examining basic tenets of major world religions and non-religious worldviews and how they form the basis of a particular principle/s, such as ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’ (the Golden Rule)
    3. investigating differing cultural norms concerning the importance of the individual relative to the family or wider community and how this may influence views on loyalty, obligation and responsibility and in turn views on guiding ethical principles
  3. Examine how problems may contain more than one ethical issue (VCECU011)
    1. exploring the nature of an ethical dilemma in which there is a choice to be made between at least two options, none of which gives an ethically acceptable result, for example, choosing who to put in a lifeboat when there are limited places, or whether someone should tell the shop owner that they their friend is shop-stealing expensive medicine for their poverty stricken mother, or, whether to stop and help someone and miss an entrance exam, or whether to quit a sport team in a small town knowing that then there will not be enough players and the team will fold
    2. investigating a problem such as responding to a natural disaster and identifying the ethical issues involved immediately and into the future
    3. researching an historical example such as Batman’s 'treaty' and its validity, identifying the different ethical issues involved and from whose point of view

Decision Making and Actions

  1. Explore the significance of ‘means versus ends’ by considering two ways to act when presented with a problem: one that privileges means and one ends (VCECD012)
    1. investigating a choice such as posting an image of a friend and justifying why someone should or should not post the image, in terms of means and ends
    2. responding to a range of ethical dilemmas and comparing responses that focus on means (where the most important consideration is the action itself, such as being honest regardless of the consequences) and responses that focus on ends (where the most important consideration is the likely outcome, such as making someone happy even if it means lying to them)
    3. analysing the position 'the end justifies the means' and the tension between means and ends in different contexts, for example, experimentation on people or other animals, the collection and use of data, making consumer decisions, selecting/training teams in sport or making civic decisions such as removing homeless people from areas during an event
  2. Discuss the role and significance of conscience and reasoning in ethical decision-making (VCECD013)
    1. defining conscience and discussing examples where conscience could influence reasoning and decision-making, such as when faced with an opportunity to gain by doing the wrong thing, with little likelihood of getting caught, for example acknowledging the use of someone else’s ideas, tampering with evidence or data, or accessing internet content without paying

Levels 5 and 6 Achievement Standard

By the end of Level 6, students evaluate the meaning of ethical concepts and analyse their value, identifying areas of contestability. They explain different ways to respond to ethical problems and identify issues related to these.

Students identify different ethical issues associated with a particular problem. They identify the basis of a range of ethical principles and explain the role and significance of conscience and reasoning in ethical decision-making.

Levels 7 and 8

Levels 7 and 8 Description

In Levels 7 and 8, the curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and understandings to explore the tensions related to ethical concepts and decision making. Students extend their exploration of the two major ways to approach ethical deliberation – thinking about consequences and thinking about duties, including the extent of ethical obligation. Students develop an understanding that ethical problems may not be resolved in a straightforward way.

Levels 7 and 8 Content Descriptions

Understanding Concepts

  1. Explore the contested meaning of concepts including freedom, justice, and rights and responsibilities, and the extent they are and should be valued by different individuals and groups (VCECU014)
    1. exploring the meaning of justice by proposing and evaluating criteria that might be used for justice, such as what is deserved, adherence to laws or maximising the common good
    2. comparing and evaluating two conceptions of freedom: the absence of anything that prevents you achieving what you want, and the ability to control your own interests (self- determination); and whether the harm principle should be used to limit freedom, as part of a study of an issue concerning freedom of speech, or freedom of action (such as restrictions to gambling or alcohol consumption)
    3. using a range of examples, such as drink driving, to examine whether there are more important rights and responsibilities than others, whether rights are means or ends and the extent to which reasons involving rights do and should outweigh other reasons for actions
  2. Investigate why ethical principles may differ between people and groups, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU015)
    1. researching contemporary or historically significant people across a range of cultures and identifying and comparing the principles evident in the decision-making and actions of, for example, William Barak, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi
    2. exploring a cultural norm concerning, for example, the importance of winning, maximizing profit or teamwork, and how this may influence a decision about where duties lie or what is the best outcome
    3. investigating instances where individual action differed from the wider group, and the reasons for these differences, for example, in response to discrimination, corruption or bullying
  3. Investigate criteria for determining the relative importance of matters of ethical concern (VCECU016)
    1. identifying the ethical issues involved in a land use proposal and investigating reasons people from different groups give for what they believe to be the most important ethical consideration
    2. using if…then reasoning to consider and test proposed criteria for determining ethical significance, for example, ‘if this proposed criterion (such as financial cost, extent of harm /benefit to individuals/groups, dispositions/past actions of individuals or groups involved) were to be the most important, then the consequences would be…, and this matters /doesn’t matter because…’

Decision Making and Actions

  1. Explore the extent of ethical obligation and the implications for thinking about consequences and duties in decision-making and action (VCECD017)
    1. placing a range of acts on a continuum from strictly obligatory to ‘above and beyond the call of duty’, and comparing the reasons for and implications of the placements, for example, giving up a full-time job to help family/friends/strangers, obeying rules/the law, handing in small/large amounts of found money, fighting in a war to protect your own country/a neighbouring or far or poor country/a country that has helped you in the past, volunteering at school/in the community, giving first aid at an accident, rescuing people who have disobeyed safety signs
    2. discussing the views of a range of major religious traditions and non-religious world views on ethical obligation, to inform a response to an ethical issue, for example responding to global people movements or armed conflict
    3. discussing a philosophical view on ethical obligation, for example those of Peter Singer in relation to poverty, and the kind of community change that would occur if those views were followed
  2. Discuss the role of context and experience in ethical decision-making and actions (VCECD018)
    1. discussing the impact of experience on the decisions of a character in response to ethical problems over the course of a narrative, for example, Lockie Leonard
    2. investigating why people may apply different reasoning in different circumstances , for example, in situations involving friends or strangers, work or leisure, or different places or cultures
    3. using examples of acts to investigate whether there are exceptions to claims such as ‘failure is never good’, ‘fighting is always wrong’, ‘selfishness is never good’, ‘caring is always good’ and considering the importance of context and experience in justifications for exceptions, for example, failure of a physical challenge versus a medical operation, fighting a war versus fighting in a brawl, aiming to win a game versus maximising profit, and doing something for someone when they are injured versus not injured

Levels 7 and 8 Achievement Standard

By the end of Level 8, students explain different ways ethical concepts are represented and analyse their value to society, identifying areas of contestability. They articulate how criteria can be applied to determine the importance of ethical concerns.

Students analyse the differences in principles between people and groups. They explain different views on the extent of ethical obligation and analyse their implications for the consequences of and duties involved in ethical decision-making and action. They analyse the role of context and experience in ethical decision-making and action.

Levels 9 and 10

Levels 9 and 10 Description

In Levels 9 and 10, the curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and understandings to analyse and evaluate ethical problems and their resolution and to identify and manage contestability in ethical matters. Students reflect on whether there are ethical concepts and principles common across people, groups and cultures.

Levels 9 and 10 Content Descriptions

Understanding Concepts

  1. Investigate the connections and distinctions between and the relative value of concepts including fairness and equality, and respect and tolerance (VCECU019)
    1. discussing whether fairness and equality are the same thing, and if not, which is more important, using examples such as affirmative action, concessions for those with special needs, or differences in tax rates
    2. discussing whether there are distinctions in attitudes of respect and tolerance, in relation to, for example, different views on child vaccination
    3. discussing why punishments may be unequal and whether this is fair, for example, if applied to the same case in court or in a sporting tribunal
  2. Explore a range of ethical problems and examine the extent to which different positions are related to commonly held ethical concepts and principles, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU020)
    1. identifying and discriminating the ethical concepts and principles raised by people or groups in a globally significant debate such as responses to people movements, poverty or climate change
    2. identifying and analysing why members of the same religious tradition may hold different views, for example, on capital punishment
  3. Distinguish between the ethical and non-ethical dimensions of complex issues, including the distinction between ethical and legal issues (VCECU021)
    1. assessing a complex ethical issue that is, one, such as euthanasia, that involves more than one question and area of contestability, a range of diverse people, and/or is part of a wider problem or historical context, to discriminate and explain those features that are of ethical significance, using these questions: who is involved, what are their intentions and what gave rise to the intention (including relevant dispositions)?, Is there something inherently right or wrong in the act itself or interpretation of the issue?, Is there a duty at stake (for example arising out of a perceived right or a particular relationship such as friend to friend, parent to child or doctor to patient)?, What are the possible consequences?, Who is likely to be affected?
    2. examining and comparing the ethical significance of codes of conduct, protocols, and legal responsibilities as preparation for undertaking research or working collaboratively
    3. exploring a response to an issue such as the use of someone else’s ideas, conditions of factory workers overseas, or the rescuing of adventurers, to identify if there is no legal, but arguably an ethical, obligation

Decision Making and Actions

  1. Discuss issues raised by thinking about consequences and duties, in approaches to decision-making and action, and arguments for and against these approaches (VCECD022)
    1. defining and comparing ethical terms such as deontology and consequentialism, identifying the main contestabilities and applying findings to discuss the costs and benefits of a proposal such as diverting money from a planned pedestrian crossing to a hospital, or from the foreign aid budget to domestic farmers, or from programs that respond to health problems to those that claim to prevent health problems
    2. using hypothetical ethical dilemmas to compare consequential and duty-based approaches to decision-making and their contestabilities, for example the trolley problem, where a switch can be flipped to divert a runaway carriage that would crash into five railway workers, but would instead kill one person standing on the other line (from Philippa Foot), or whether to stay and look after a family member or go and fight evil forces (from Sartre), or a politician lying in an attempt to protect citizens from harm (from Machiavelli - the problem of Dirty Hands)
    3. examining issues in fiction that show problems with consequence and duties-based approaches to decision-making, such as conflicts between rights or duties or potentially causing the suffering of the few for the sake of the majority, for example, in “The Hunger Games” or “Les Miserables”, for example, when Jean Valjean faces the decision of whether to save the person mistakenly identified as him
  2. Investigate how different factors involved in ethical decision-making can be managed by people and groups (VCECD023)
    1. identifying an ethical problem and how a social and/or private institution negotiates different points of view, for example NGOs working in local communities, or government organisations such as local councils with a planning or development issue
    2. analysing a range of fiction and non-fiction texts such as autobiographies to compare and reflect on how characters/people internally managed the interaction of factors such as feelings, reasoning, experience, dispositions and conscience

Levels 9 and 10 Achievement Standard

By the end of Level 10, students explain connections and distinctions between ethical concepts, identifying areas of contestability in their meanings and relative value.

Students analyse and evaluate contested approaches to thinking about consequences and duties in relation to ethical issues. They examine complex issues, identify the ethical dimensions and analyse commonality and difference between different positions. They explain how different factors involved in ethical decision-making can be managed.

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