ethics lab

Kennedy Institute of Ethics

Georgetown University

ethics, done differently.

Ethics Lab is a hub for creative ethics learning at Georgetown and beyond.

The lab takes a practical approach to applied ethics, tackling complex contemporary moral problems using a mix of philosophical tools and design thinking.

We recognize that new tools, policies, and frameworks are needed to reckon with today’s moral challenges, and we aim to address those challenges through direct-impact work and a transformative ethics education. Our character-based ethics learning works to educate women and men for others, and our direct-impact work aims to make a difference in the world beyond Georgetown’s gates.

The Lab’s work includes flagship courses and outreach and consulting aimed at transforming ethics education across campus. Beyond the gates, we run professional development sessions for educators from middle school to continuing education programs and advise policymakers and industry partners on emerging, fast-moving crises like the Zika epidemic and rise of fake news.


Flagship Courses

Ethics Lab partners with faculty across campus to co-design flagship project-based ethics courses that take advantage of the lab’s space, materials, mentorship and network of experts.

We launched a donor-supported course on data ethics in Spring 2017, drawing faculty from the Institute as well as Judd Nicholson, Georgetown University’s CIO, to explore the rapidly-changing landscape of data and big data. This course is continuing this semester. This fall, we launched a course on the ethics of social media, which will be offered again Spring 2018. Flagship courses are designed and run with the explicit goal of developing exportable curricular structures for future use in other courses across campus. See our full list of flagship courses.

Workshops, Modules, and Outreach

Ethics Lab’s tools for active learning help students explore ethical issues in courses across the university, and our team is working to share successful approaches with fellow educators and professionals on campus and beyond its gates. 

Examples include a partnership with Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS), whose Dean engaged the Kennedy Institute of Ethics to consult on the required ethics courses for its Masters of Professional Studies degrees. In Spring 2017, Lab team members led a series of collaborative workshops with SCS faculty and program leadership, providing recommendations for enriching, expanding, and deepening the school’s ethics curriculum. This year, through the generosity of Chandler and Paul Tagliabue (C’62), Ethics Lab is partnering with the Georgetown Learning Initiative to launch the Engaging Ethics Initiative. This program will provide support for faculty across Georgetown to import inventive ways of highlighting ethics in their classes.


Educating Educators

Ethics Lab’s mandate is not just to experiment, but to share what works. The lab has run professional development sessions aimed at educators from the middle school to undergraduate level, with new initiatives under development.

In 2015 and 2016, the Lab offered a day-long design workshop on research ethics for clinical researchers and health care professionals whose work brings them face-to-face with moral issues in medical research. In January 2017, the Lab’s offerings drew a group of high school educators from the Washington, DC area for an event on the ethics of enhancement. This year we also hosted a team of educators from the International Baccalaureate Program for a professional development workshop on ethics.



Educational Toolkits

Ethics Lab is developing ways to take its methods even farther afield, in self-contained educational toolkits designed for middle, high school, and undergraduate students.

We assembled a team of designers and PhD philosophers to create a suite of toolkits that pair ethics topics with design methods. The kits enable teachers to facilitate a discrete activity in their own classrooms without prior expertise in ethics or design. The empathy mapping toolkit is our first product and helps learners engage with the ethics of informed consent. Another tool in the works uses the design tool of persona building to explore the ethics of enhancement. Both kits are in pre-market testing; the empathy mapping kit will be available Spring 2018.

Courses for the Common Good

Ethics Lab hosts, in addition to its own courses and workshops, selected Georgetown classes whose project-based methods benefit from the lab’s space and resources, and whose efforts to design for the common good align with its overall mission.

In the lab this semester are courses on data ethics, social media and democracy, and climate change. Semesters past have included courses on national science policy, social innovation in India, designing the future(s) of the university. and rhetoric as a tool for social change.

Learn more

Want to learn more?

Keep up to date with what’s happening in Ethics Lab, including new opportunities to get involved, by following the lab blog and press coverage. Visit the lab space in Healy Hall, reach out by email, sign up for the mailing list, or follow Ethics Lab on social media: stay connected.