Purpose: To evaluate a project on teaching medical ethics to first-year students by using film discussion to develop the students' moral reasoning.
Method: The participants were 114 first-year students at Texas A&M University Health Science Center College of Medicine in 1989-90, 1990-91, and 1991-92: (1) 48 (20 women and 28 men) who participated during the fall quarter in an elective course on social issues in medicine, which consisted of weekly one-hour discussions of short films; (2) 37 (18 women and 19 men) who participated in the course during both the fall and winter quarters; and (3) a control group of 29 (8 women and 21 men) who did not take the course and so had no exposure to the film discussions. The influence of the discussions on the students' moral reasoning was measured by using Rest's Defining Issues Test for pretests and posttests. The scores of the three groups were compared by using multivariate analysis of variance.
Results: There were statistically significant increases in the moral reasoning scores of both the course registrants with one-quarter exposure to the film discussions (p < .002) and those with two-quarter exposure (p < .008) compared with the scores of the students who did not take the course and had no exposure (p < .109).
Conclusion: No doubt there was a self-selecting bias on the part of the course registrants; however, since both groups of registrants showed significant increases on their posttest scores, clearly the course did have a positive influence on these students' moral reasoning. Thus, it is possible to develop young people's moral reasoning in medical school as well as in earlier educational environments.