Student Commentaries

While normative case studies are valuable discussion resources, they can also be equally useful as writing prompts. Writing case commentaries allows students to dive deeper into the ethical issues raised by the cases, learning how to engage in careful ethical reflection and deepening their understanding of the ethical dilemmas in education.


What Makes a Good Commentary?

A good commentary will seriously grapple with the key values at stake in deciding the best course of action. Commentaries, however, aren't limited to an elaboration of the ethical dilemma(s) of the chosen case. A good commentary might:


  • Critically evaluate one particular perspective, action, or decision point.

  • Apply a theoretical or policy framework to analyze the case.

  • Argue for a particular course of action.

  • Evaluate the education policies that contribute to the ethical dilemma(s) in question.

  • Compare alternative perspectives within or beyond the case.

  • Critique the case itself (e.g., argue that critical information is left out that prevents reaching a reasoned decision).


Learning Outcomes

Depending on how you frame the task, writing a commentary can help students:


  1. Develop their ability to identify ethical dilemmas.

  2. Discuss how values drive our decisions.

  3. Sharpen their analytic and critical thinking.

  4. Understand key challenges of educational policy and practice.


Want Examples?

For great examples of student commentaries, please read through two new commentaries written by Innocense Gumbs and Keegan Bonds-Harmon--recent graduates from the Met High School in Providence, Rhode Island. As part of a collaboration with Justice in Schools, Innocense and Keegan developed case commentaries responding to two different cases in Dilemmas of Educational Ethics.

  • In her commentary, Innocense argues that the work of anti-racist educator Jane Elliott offers a powerful template for responding to the challenges that can arise in diverse classrooms populated by students with a range of needs and abilities.

  • In his commentary, Keegan argues that what students really need are not punitize, zero-tolerance policies but rather meaningful connections with adults who are truly invested in them. Embracing more humanizing discipline practices, Keegan argues schools can become places that help students grow and not places that push students into the criminal justice system.


How'd It Go?

Have you written commentaries with your students? Please feel free to let us know how your unit went!