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A Model for Engineering Ethics Education through a Co-op Program

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Cooperative & Experiential Education Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.69.1 - 24.69.12



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Paper Authors


Chris Plouff Grand Valley State University

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Chris Plouff, Ed.D., P.E., is the Assistant Director of the School of Engineering and the James R. Sebastian Chair of Engineering Cooperative Education and Educational Development at Grand Valley State University. He is an Assistant Professor and coordinates assessment efforts for the School of Engineering, including for the mandatory cooperative education program. His research interests include effective assessment of engineering education, cooperative education, transition to and from the engineering educational environment, and first-year engineering program development. Prof. Plouff has a Doctorate in Education from Eastern Michigan University, a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Tech University, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Michigan.

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Nael Barakat Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Nael Barakat is a professor of Mechanical Engineering (ME) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids, MI. He is a registered professional engineer in Ontario, Canada, and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). His areas of interest include Controls, Robotics, Automation, Systems dynamics and Integration, Metrology, NEMS, as well as Engineering Ethics, professionalism, and Education.
Dr. Barakat is currently the chair of the Technology and Society (T & S) Division and the ASME district B leader. He is the current secretary/treasurer of the ASEE Ethics Division.

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A Model for Engineering Ethics Education Leveraging Worplace Experiences through a Co-op Program AbstractEducating engineering student about professional ethics involves multiple challenges. Thesechallenges can be extrinsic such as finding a proper place, timing, and quantity for this topic inthe curriculum to provide to engineering students. These challenges can also be intrinsicincluding finding the appropriate method of delivery of this topic as well as the proper hands-onexperiences and context to support this knowledge, particularly in engineering where studentsare trained on combining theory with practice.Many models have been proposed in the literature to educate engineering students aboutprofessional ethics. This paper presents a model that infuses ethics education across three yearsof the engineering program by delivering a scaffolded curriculum, using both classroom and on-line, distance education methodologies. The framework for the model is situated within thestructure of the mandatory cooperative education program. Ethics instruction occurs during arequired cooperative education preparatory course, as well as during each of three semesterswhen students are employed with industry partners to practice engineering in a cooperativeeducation program.Introductory engineering ethics content is provided in the preparatory course, including reviewand assessment of case studies. During the co-op work semesters, online tools have beendeveloped that allow for easy collection and summarization of input related to student outcomes.Students are required to complete online, distance-learning modules during each cooperativeeducation semester which allow for additional direct measurement of student learning outcomes,including five engineering ethics-focused modules. The cooperative education program providesassessment of student learning outcomes on a continuous (every semester), annual basis. Theframework for assessment and assessment plans will be detailed, and examples outcomes will beshared to demonstrate how this information is evaluated and used for curricular improvement. Inaddition, employer evaluations during the co-op semesters provide input on student abilitiesrelated to ethical behavior in the workplace.Outcomes of the continuous assessment and improvement of this program over a pilot trial, aswell as full implementation with modifications learned from the pilot trial over two followingclasses of engineering students, are reported and discussed. Results show that students’perceptions, the timing of content delivery, and context, play a significant role in theeffectiveness of this delivery model. Initial results indicate that students are demonstratingmastery of applied ethics-based knowledge and abilities between beginner and intermediatelevels by the end of the cooperative education program.

Plouff, C., & Barakat, N. (2014, June), A Model for Engineering Ethics Education through a Co-op Program Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19961

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