Purple Dragons and Yellow Toadstools a Versatile Exercise for Introducing Students to Negotiated Consensus

  • Brian P. CoppolaEmail author
  • India C. Plough
  • Huai Sun


An activity called Purple Dragons and Yellow Toadstools, originally reported in 1987 as a training activity for jurors, was adapted as a priming exercise for a unit on teaching research ethics with undergraduate students. In this activity, learners develop skills for building negotiated consensus. The procedure involves individuals’ ranking 10–15 moral transgressions and/or legal violations followed by a small group discussion in order to arrive at an agreed-upon ranking by the team. The framework has proved to be quite flexible, adaptable to different subject areas and with different populations of students.


Research ethics Ethics training Curriculum design Teaching Education 



The authors thank their students for continually engaging one another with enthusiasm and thoughtful discussion. BPC thanks the undergraduate group leaders who help implement these activities in their supplemental instruction sessions (L. Chen, L. Daboul, T. Friedlander, J. Gatti, J. Lawniczak, D. Luan, J. Luo, K. McKernan, A. Milen, A. Min, C. Nino, A. Nishii, P. Parker, M. Payne, M. Ryan, R. Tarnopol, A. Young). We dedicate this paper to the legacy of the unknown individual(s) who originally created Purple Dragons and Yellow Toadstools.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Residential College in the Arts and HumanitiesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityMinhang District, ShanghaiChina

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