4.3 Peer collaborative production

As students are listening to lectures, watching videos or reading texts that explain the core ideas of ethics to them, they gain a certain level of mastery over the material. But they will have mastery over different parts of it. One student might have a very strong command of Concept A but a fuzzy grasp of Concept B and find Concept C completely confusing.

By collaborating with his or her peer who is confused by Concept A but has a firm grasp of Concepts B and C, the student will be able to push him or herself and his or her peers into that zone of proximal development, thereby improving the learning of them both. The Modules thus provide plenty of recommended activities in which students work together on tasks, enabling them to help each other deepen their understanding of integrity and ethics.

One practical point about asking students to work collaboratively should be considered. Ideally, the students should work together to complete a concrete task of some kind. If you simply provide discussion questions for students, and invite them to discuss with one another, it is likely that the more motivated students will follow the directions, while the less motivated ones stray off task.

This problem can be avoided if the requirement is that students work collaboratively to produce something: a document, a list, a map, a performance, etc.

Activity 4.3 Ensuring clear outcomes for group tasks

Effective collaborative work requires that a group is tasked with producing a clear outcome. Bringing to mind your own teaching practice, what examples can you think of where you have enabled collaboration amongst your students by giving them a group task with a clear outcome?

Use the box below to note down at least one example.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Ensuring that student groups have a deliverable of some kind, even a very informal one, can be a very effective way of helping your students to learn collaboratively. There are many ways this can be done, and the E4J Modules use activities which embrace this approach.

For example, in E4J Anti-Corruption Module 6 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , students are introduced to a variety of ways to detect corruption. Exercise 3 of that Module asks students to consider how to tackle corruption by using blockchain technology.

The students are asked to watch a video explaining the blockchain technology and put into groups to prepare an anti-corruption plan. The students then present the work they have done to the class in a plenary session.

The following case study activity gives students the opportunity to help each other complete an initial learning activity, and then to present their work to the entire class. This basic structure works well for many types of collaborative activities and provides students with the opportunity to help each other learn.

Activity 4.4 Case study – Ethical business practices

Ethical business practices

This exercise is taken from E4J Ethics Module 7 (Strategies for Ethical Action)

In this exercise students are asked to imagine following situation:

You are working as an assistant to a manager of a company. Your company is bidding on a large, publicly tendered contract with a foreign government. After six months of expensive preparations and bidding, a government official assures you and the manager in a phone call that you will get the contract. Right before the contract is signed, someone from the government’s purchasing department requests a last-minute “closure fee”.

Your company needs this contract to reach its revenue target for this year. The manager decides to go ahead and pay the closure fee to get the contract. You notice that your company does not receive a receipt for the payment. You decide to check the tender provisions but you find no mention of an official closure fee.

You are convinced that the payment violates your company’s code of conduct and is indeed an act of corruption. You decide to go ahead and confront the manager, but the manager refuses to listen or discuss the matter. What sorts of excuses or rationalizations might the manager offer?

What techniques could you use to try to get your class engaged in discussing this issue?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


The main objective of this exercise is to encourage students to train your students “moral muscle” and develop the skills in terms of the action-based approach to integrity and ethics.

Depending on your particular teaching context, and the time available, there are a number of ways you could approach engaging your students in this task. For example:

Part 1

Students are asked to discuss this question first in groups. Subsequently, the rationalizations discussed in the groups are discussed with the larger class.

Part 2

Groups are asked to pick one excuse or rationalization and to try to counter it by developing arguments to prove that the excuse is invalid. Students could be encouraged to make use of action-planning and script-writing techniques. In particular, they should be encouraged to build their argument so that it relates to personal beliefs and values, or to the values and codes of ethics of their organization. They should also consider which communication method to choose (e.g. formal, informal, written, or personal talk).

Depending on time, you can ask a couple of groups to present their counter arguments to the rationalization they chose.

Part 3

You ask your students to do a brief role-play in groups of two, where one student plays the manager putting forward the rationalization and the other student tries to voice his or her belief and counter the rationalization.

Of course, this sort of role-play should only occur after the entire group has engaged in ethical problem-solving (as above) and as also mentioned above, it is critically important to engage the students who are playing the manager who proposed the unethical action in helping to improve the approach used to encourage ethical action; this is essential as you don’t want to encourage rehearsal for unethical action and give the impression that the unethical response is just as good as the more values-driven approach.

Depending on time, a couple of groups may be chosen to play their interpretation in front of the class.

When conducting the exercise, you may wish to draw on the article Giving Voice to Values: How to Counter Rationalizations Rationally (Gentile, 2017).

While the dilemma situation in this exercise applies to the business context, it has the potential to be customized to fit other contexts that you consider appropriate for your students.

4.2 Zone of proximal development

4.4 Conclusion