Teaching moral reasoning: Why and how to use the trolley problem

Johannes Himmelreich, Joshua Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article describes a teaching plan for a discussion-driven introduction to moral reasoning and explains its philosophical and pedagogical rationale. The teaching plan consists of a sequence of thought experiments that build on one another, and ends with participants addressing some morally complex, real-life issues. The plan rests on extensive experience teaching moral reasoning in several different professional learning environments. The main contribution of this article is practical. The goal is to equip educators with a pedagogical approach and ready-to-use teaching materials. To this end, the article offers the methodological background, identifies learning objectives as well as pitfalls of teaching the trolley problem, and describes the pedagogy of the session.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-471
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Public Affairs Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Trolley problem
  • applied ethics
  • moral reasoning
  • teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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