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Using Podcasts with 'Real World' Leaders to Teach Leadership Ethics

Tools for Teaching

This example discusses how I incorporated podcasts, featuring leaders from the business world, to provide real-world examples of the application of the theoretical topics discussed in the module.  

What did you do? Why did you do it? 

I recorded a series of 40-minute podcasts featuring leaders from business and other professional sectors as part of a second year discovery module on leadership ethics. These served to compliment recorded lectures, and to show the real-world application of the theoretical topics discussed in the reading material and lectures. Podcasts took a classic discussion format, with prepared questions used as prompts to keep things on topic. Each podcast complimented a companion lecture, approaching the same topic from a theoretical perspective. Example topics include: i) the role of trust in leadership, ii) how leaders can distinguish between legitimate persuasive strategies and manipulation, and iii) leader’s responsibility for organisational culture.  

Using guest speakers from industry and professional sectors has worked well on the module in previous years as a means to bring ethical issues in leadership to life and to engage students. However, face-to-face guest lectures were not possible this year due to the requirement for teaching to be primarily online due to COVID-19.  

There are also significant benefits of using the podcast format as a teaching tool. Students find the format familiar and engaging, something demonstrated by the popularity of the medium outside of academia. Podcasts also fit easily into most people’s daily lives in a way that pre-recorded lectures do not, as they can be listened to while completing other activities. This is especially good for inclusivity as it benefits learners with caring responsibilities or other commitments. Research also suggests that students are more likely to listen for longer than they will read or watch educational content.

The podcast format can also help overcome some common issues with using guest lecturers with little educational experience, such as speakers going off-topic, or feeling awkward. Podcasts are uniquely well-suited to teaching ethics, as the process of conversation and questioning closely mirrors the Socratic method (Genova & Gonzalez 2016). 

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it ?

Students found the format engaging and convenient and demonstrated an excellent understanding of the course material and its practical relevance. Guest speakers enjoyed the format as well, commenting that they found it intellectually stimulating and more relaxed and less intimidating than a guest lecture. I personally found that it was easier to secure high quality guest speakers due to the relaxed medium and the relative lack of preparation time required of speakers in comparison to a guest lecture. As the module progresses, a bank of podcasts will be created, which will provide a valuable resource for students. 

Student learning was evident in formal assessment on the module, and students commented  positively on the podcasts in informal feedback sought during the module.

How could others benefit from this example?

I think that other teaching staff will find the podcast format increasingly useful as we continue to teach lectures online in response to COVID-19. As we progress, podcasts can provide a valuable resource for blended learning strategies. As noted above, podcasts offer an excellent teaching tool outside of the current context, especially for ethicists, due to the benefits discussed. 


Josh Hobbs,, IDEA Centre – Applied Ethics 

Additional Reading

Brinkmann, Johannes; Lindemann, Beate; Sims, Ronald R. 2016.  

Voicing Moral Concerns: Yes, But How? The Use of Socratic Dialogue Methodology. Journal of Business Ethics 139 (3): 619-631 

Genova, Gonzalo; Gonzalez M. Rosario.  2016. Teaching Ethics to Engineers: A Socratic Experience. Science and Engineering Ethics 22(1): 567–580. 

 The Podcast Host

IDEA Centre

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