The following guidelines provide context for applying the evaluation criteria contained on the evaluation forms. These guidelines should inform each judge’s consideration of the arguments made by the respective teams in the round.

  • Reasonable disagreement  
    The ethical case studies are designed to address controversial issues about which intelligent, thoughtful people can reasonably disagree. The scores of the teams, therefore, should be based on the quality of their arguments, not on whether or not they adopted one position rather than another. The team that makes the strongest argument should win the most points. Moral decisions are made case by case based on applying critical thought to difficult situations. When evaluating teams, judges should not let whether or not they agree with the team’s conclusion influence their assessment.  
  • Do Your Research  
    Successful presentations should include a clear and detailed understanding of the facts given in the case. Since cases often involve details that are not general knowledge, research will often be necessary. Students should be prepared to identify sources of facts gained through independent research. While research is helpful, even necessary as a learning tool, judges should focus predominantly on the quality of arguments presented.  
  • Presentation Style  
    The focus of the ethics bowl is on the arguments the students provide. This means that judges must evaluate, and only evaluate, a team on aspects of its presentation that relate directly to the four criteria identified on the judge's score-sheet. Judges may not consider in their scoring other aspects of the team's presentation (e.g. the voice quality of presenters, whether they maintain eye contact with the judges, etc.).
  • Moral Theories  
    Judges should be looking for good arguments that employ clear ethical principles. This does not require that teams put those arguments explicitly within some formal ethical theory. What really matters is that they grasp important ethical principle(s), and are able to clearly articulate and defend them well against critique. For example, if a team has a good argument about fairness they should be rewarded for this, whether they drape it in the clothing of Rawls' Veil of Ignorance or some other theory or just leave it in plain English. The above should not be interpreted to mean that teams should be discouraged from using ethical theory. Rather, if they do they should clearly explain the theory(ies) and not merely drop names (a really good argument based on such theories is possible).  
  • Posing Questions in the Commentary
    In their commentary (Rule 6), Team 2 may also pose questions to Team 1, but Team 1 is under no obligation to answer any or all of Team 2's questions. Team 1 should, however, be able to answer the most important question or two (in the event that there are more than two questions). When scoring team 2's commentary, judges should consider that questions raised during the commentary should address truly substantive issues both in relation to team 1's presentation and the moderator's question. A “question shower”, in which Team 2 attempts to dominate Team 1's response to Team 2's commentary simply by posing a large laundry list of questions, should not merit a high score.  
  • Scoring
    At the end of each round you should enter the following scores: 
    1. The presenting team’s presentation score (30 total points)
        1. Was the presentation clear and systematic? Regardless of whether or not you agree with the conclusion, did the team give a coherent argument in a clear and succinct manner?
            • 1-2 = Incoherent presentation
            • 3-4 = Serious logical problems in the argument (poor)
            • 5-6 = Hard to follow the argument (passable)
            • 7-8 = Reasonabily clear and systematic
            • 9 = Crystal clear presentation
            • 10 = Exceptional
        2. Did the team's presentation clearly identify and thoroughly discuss the central moral dimensions of the case, doing so in a way consistent with a collegial and thoughtful discussion?
            • 1-2 = Failure to cover any relevant moral dimensions
            • 3-4 = Serious missing or underdeveloped dimensions (poor)
            • 5-6 = Some significant dimensions are missing or poorly covered (passable)
            • 7-8 = Most dimensions are prsent and well developed
            • 9 = All dimensions present and clarified appropriately 
            • 10 = Exceptional
        3. Did the team's presentation indicate both an awareness and thoughtful consideration of, as well as a respect for, different viewpoints, including especially those that would loom large in the reasoning of individuals who disagree with the team's position? (Note: A team does not necessarily need to explicitly say, "We will now address objections..." to have done this well.)
            • 1-2 = Minimal awareness of different viewpoints
            • 3-4 = Minimal consideration of different viewpoints (poor)
            • 5-6 = Underdeveloped discussion of different viewpoints (passable)
            • 7-8 = Solid analysis and discussion of different viewpoints, including careful attention especially to those that would loom large
            • 9 = Insightful analysis and discussion of different viewpoints, including full and careful attention especially to those that would loom large
            • 10 = Exceptional
    2. The presenting team’s response to commentary and judge’s question combined score (20 total points)
        1. Did the team thoroughly and respectfully respond to the commentary made by the other team, addressing the relevant concerns raised by the commentary team?
            • 1-2 = Failure to responde to commentary
            • 3-4 = Weak or irrelevant response (poor)
            • 5-6 = Some points are made (passable)
            • 7-8 = Solid response to commenting team's points
            • 9 = Key points zeroed in on (crystal clear)
            • 10 = Excetionally composed commentary
        2. Did the team thoughtfully and respectfully address the questions of the judges and in doing so deepen the analysis of the case?
            • 1-2 = Failure to respond to judges
            • 3-4 = Weak or irrelevant response (poor)
            • 5-6 = Some points are made (passable)
            • 7-8 = Solid response to judge's points
            • 9 = Key points zeroed in on (crystal clear)
            • 10 = Exceptionally composed commentary
    3. The responding team’s commentary score (10 points)
        1. Did the commentary team give a fair and accurate representation of the presenting team's argument and present a thoughtful commentary on the argument?
            • 1-2 = Failure to respond to presenting team
            • 3-4 = Weak or irrelvant response (poor)
            • 5-6 = Some points are made (passable)
            • 7-8 = Solid response to presenting team's points
            • 9 = Key points zeroed in on (crystal clear)
            • 10 = Exceptionally composed commentary
    Spirit Points
    Spirit points reflect an assessment of the extent to which each team's presentation embodied the spirit of the ethics bowl competition (in particular with respect to civility). Give a score of 1-5 on the flipside of the judges’ Scoresheet. Spirit Points are NOT factored in to a team’s overall score, but are for feedback purposes only.
  • Criteria

    Judges shall evaluate the responses of teams solely in terms of the following criteria:

    1. Clarity and Intelligibility: Was the presentation clear and systematic?  Regardless of whether or not you agree with the conclusion, did the team give a coherent argument in a clear and succinct manner?
    2. Identification and Discussion of Central Ethical Dimensions: Did the team’s presentation clearly identify and thoroughly discuss the central ethical dimensions of the case?
    3. Deliberative Thoughtfulness: Did the team’s presentation indicate both awareness and thoughtful consideration of different viewpoints, including especially those that would loom large in the reasoning of individuals who disagree with the team’s position?

    Each judge will score teams as follows:0-30 points for Team 1’s response to the Moderator’s question, including how well the team addressed the judges’ questions (30 best); in evaluating a team’s answer the judges will give the team a score of 0-10 points relative to each of the four evaluation criteria indicated above and total the sum.
    0-10 points for Team 2’s commentary (10 best).
    0-10 points for Team 1’s response to the commentary (10 best).
    In evaluating a team’s commentary and the other team’s response to the commentary, the judges will take into account the three evaluation criteria indicated above, but will give the teams an overall score, rather than a separate point score relative to each of the criteria.
    Judges are not permitted to discuss their scoring decisions with each other.  Each judge will rely on his or her own best judgment in scoring each match and record their scores on two evaluation forms. 
  • Training

    Case Used in Training Video: Is That Blood on Your Shirt?

    When American consumers shop for clothing, they think about how much the clothes cost, how they look, and how they fit. These may seem like the most important considerations when one is standing in front of a rack of clothes, trying to pick out the perfect dress for a special event or replace a favorite shirt that has been stained. However, studies have shown that consumers also care about ethical consumption practices, such as avoiding the purchase of goods produced under unfair labor practices.26 The paradox is that, while many people describe themselves as ethical consumers, few actually act on this conviction.

    A recent tragedy in Bangladesh has brought these issues into the public eye and reignited the debate about consumers’ ethical obligations. In May 2013, a garment factory near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1,127 people. The building, allegedly built without permits and using low-grade materials, was eight stories high with another story under construction. Workers reported cracks and creaking sounds, but were told not to worry and to return to their sewing machines.27

    Bangladesh has become the second-largest apparel exporter in the world, and the apparel industry makes up 80% of Bangladesh’s exports. There are several economic reasons that explain why the garment manufacturing industry is so successful in Bangladesh. The country allows workers to be paid relatively little compared with western standards. For example, the minimum wage is $37 a month. Overhead costs are also significantly lower in Bangladeshi factories, because environmental, labor, health and safety and building standards are minimal or non-existent.

    It would be easy to attribute consumersʼ apparent insouciance to the fact that tragedies like the one in Bangladesh often occur a world away. Mark Magnier from the LA Times agrees: “One problem... is the geographical and psychological distance most Western shoppers feel toward Bangladesh, making it easier for them to forget about the shocking loss of life by the next news cycle.” However, the reasoning behind consumersʼ choices is much more complex. A 2010 study has found that consumers explain their inability to follow their convictions by invoking three justification strategies: economic rationalizations (e.g., “I cannot afford ethically-sourced goods”); institutional dependency (e.g., “unethically produced good dominate the market; it is the responsibility of governments, not the consumer, to make sure that workers are not exploited”), and developmental realism (e.g., “even if the conditions are bad, sweatshops offer much-needed employment to people in developing nations”).

    26 Giana Eckhardt, Russell Belk, and Timothy M. Devinney, "Why Don't Consumers Consume Ethically?," Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2010, 9(6): 426-436.
    Mark Magnier, In Bangladesh, Shock May Give to Status Quo, The Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2013,,0,1203787.story