Applied Ethics

Applied Ethics

The IB learner profile characteristic of 'principled' requires students to develop responsibility not only for their actions but the consequences as well. Applied Ethics is most immediately associated with the The Reflective Project although the other themes are no less relevant. The Reflective Project resources already go into detail with Ethical dimensions, issues and dilemmas and  Ethical Thinking. The focus here is on approaching Ethics in PPS setting through case studies and debates.

Approaches to learning

The lesson plans and activities on this page can be delivered to include explicit and implicit reference to a range of Approaches to Teaching and Learning. The IB's suggestions for ATL skills in the 5 key areas are not exhaustive and you are encouraged to contextualise and add to these as appropriate. The key to students being able to identify skills and use them in a range of situations is to teach the skill explicitly before incorporating it implicitly in a range of contexts. Here we focus on a key ATL skill, that can directly relate not only to the reflective project criteria but also to the following PPS learning outcome.

  LO 5: Recognise and consider the ethics of choices and actions in real world situations

This can be seen as an umbrella LO for the other four learning outcomes explored here as students are identifying their own strengths, applying thinking processes to personal and professional situations, recognising cultural sensitivity as well as working collaboratively and communicating effectively. The opportunity for explicit focus and exploration on ATL skills is clear. For specific, deep and quality reflection, you could zoom in on this area in particular:

ATL Skills area
Social Skills
Specific ATL skills explored

Using social media effectively and ethically to develop relationships
Link to the reflective project
Criterion B: 'demonstrate awareness and understanding of the impact of the ethical dilemma on a local/global community and the cultural influences on, and perceptions of, the ethical dilemma'[2]
Making the links: Further teacher notes

Where next?

The particular focus here is on the ability to 'negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers' as part of Communication skills which directly relates to the students exploring and evaluating the implications of their ethical dilemma on different stakeholders in their reflective project. However this might be just a starting off point for you.

This particular set of exercises sets up the development of Research Skills and Thinking Skills well and this area in itself directly links to all the PPS themes, especially Thinking Processes and Effective Communication. Skills that might be explicitly drawn out include:

Research Skills

- Be able to employ critical-literacy skills to interpret social media communication

Thinking Skills

- be able to consider ideas from multiple perspectives
- be able to analyse complexity, break down into parts and then synthesise to create new understandings.

Again, remember to contextualise and be explicit about what skills students are developing here and why. You may find choosing one of the following directly complements the suggestions for research skills above.

Further links with the reflective project: a continuation of Criterion B - Knowledge and Understanding in Context
Criterion C: 'Demonstrate logical reasoning processes and the ability to interpret, analyse and evaluate material' as well as 'develop the ability to synthesie information, making connections and linking ideas and evidence' [2]

Top Tip: Remember that 'less is more' when making the links to ATL.

It can be a temptation to draw students' attention to the sheer number of ATL skills that they are accessing at any particular time. You know within PPS that a topic will be exploring any one of the five themes even if your introduction is through explicit focus on one; the same applies to ATL. Try isolating a specific skill and then:

Make explicit reference to it and establish prior learning and experience
Make it useful with ways to practice it so students can experience how it works
Make it transferrable by having moments to consider where they have used this skill before, how they are developing it and where it might be useful in the future.
Make it visible by have the students record and reflect upon the processes they have used


  1. ^ Adapted from the IB's ATL skills as part of the ATL website and DP: Principles into Practice 
  2. a, b IBO, The Reflective Project Guide, for use from 2016, p28
All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.