Teaching Interdisciplinary Ethics as Interactive Process: Advancing the Hohenheim-Tübingen Model

M.D.B.d.L. Núñez, Stefanie Lemke, Thomas Potthast

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


    The release of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) led the student initiative Food Revitalisation and Eco-Gastronomic Society of Hohenheim (FRESH) at the University of Hohenheim to start a participatory process that resulted in the establishment of the seminar ‘Ethics of Food and Nutrition Security’ in 2010 as a collaborative effort with the Chair of Gender and Nutrition at the University of Hohenheim (UHOH) and the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) at the University of Tübingen. This seminar follows the overall goal to equip young scientists with a firm foundation in interdisciplinary ethics-comprising basic knowledge of both ethical theories and tools to identify and analyse implications of food systems design and governance at the local and global levels – while developing their skills for practical application. We assess the development of the seminar since its inception, with particular focus on the introduction of a dynamic group work project in 2013/14 based on the ethical matrix originally suggested by Ben Mepham. The specificity of the new format was to work with the matrix in a culturally and ethically diverse student group, fostering interactive discussion among students, combined with input from external academic experts. Further, taking on different actors’ perspectives demanded students’ active and early engagement in the search for and critical examination of empirical evidence. These adaptations served the aim to strengthen the connection of the seminar’s two thematic blocks ‘Ethical theory and argumentation’ and ‘Practicing ethical analysis and argumentation’. The assessment of group work and a review of students’ evaluations indicate that we succeeded to provide students more effectively with a tool to integrate empirical, normative and evaluative knowledge. In order to proceed from ethical analysis to judgment, however, additional philosophical tools would need to be employed more intensely in future seminar rounds. Further recommendations include a stronger contextualisation of guest lectures, interactive selection of the actors considered in group work, and more involvement of non-academic experts. Institutional challenges are the financial limits to full co-teaching of UHOH and IZEW staff and the fluctuation of engaged FRESH members to sustain the participatory development of the specific format of this non-standard seminar.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDumitras DE, Jitea IM, Aerts S (eds.), Know your Food: Food Ethics and Innovation
    Number of pages7
    ISBN (Electronic)9789086862641
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jun 2015


    • ethical skills
    • curriculum development
    • participatory
    • ethical matrix


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