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ERIC Number: EJ889673
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jul
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0092-055X
The Ethics of Observing: Confronting the Harm of Experiential Learning
Meisel, Joshua S.
Teaching Sociology, v36 n3 p196-210 Jul 2008
In this article I explore the ethical terrain of experiential learning activities drawing on my experiences leading college students on field trips into criminal justice settings. Though there are numerous educational benefits to adopting experiential learning activities, the rewards must be evaluated in light of the potential harms to nonstudent participants. Student observations of criminal justice settings can reinforce common stereotypes of prisoners as scary and dangerous while reifying the legitimacy of state power exercised through agents of social control. More broadly, experiential learning activities can also highlight the shame and embarrassment of subordinate groups when such activities devolve into voyeuristic spectacles of human misery. In light of these potential harms to nonstudent groups, this article proposes guiding questions for educators to address in designing experiential activities. These questions draw attention to the following issues: the vulnerability of participants, the relative social power of nonstudent participants, whether participation is truly voluntary, the accessibility of the setting to outside observers, group size, benefits to nonstudent participants, duration of activity, protection of confidentiality, the role of students in the activity, and the curricular focus of the experience. (Contains 6 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California