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A Model for the Development of Personal and Professional Social Responsibility for Engineers

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Contextual Competencies

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.70.1 - 25.70.19



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Paper Authors


Nathan E. Canney University of Colorado, Boulder

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Nathan Canney received bachelor's degrees from Seattle University in civil engineering and applied mathematics. After graduation, he worked for Magnusson Klemencic Associates in Seattle, Wash., as a Structural Engineer on high-rise residential buildings. Canney returned to school at Stanford University for a master's degree and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in civil engineering, with an engineering education research focus.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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A Model for the Development of Personal and Professional Social Responsibility for EngineersMany professional engineering societies have identified the need to develop more holisticengineers, armed with both technical and professional skills, to address the complex globalproblems facing our society. Two professional skills include an understanding of the global andsocietal contexts for engineering solutions and of professional and ethical responsibility whichwill guide engineering students as professionals. A developed sense of social responsibility,both personal and professional, contextualized within the engineering profession, encompassesthese skills and would create an engineering body which views all projects as a service to theircommunity.To assess the degree of understanding of social responsibility, both personal and professional, anew model was developed as a foundation for assessment. This new model synthesizedSchwartz’s cognitive model for altruistic helping behavior, Delve’s behavioral model forcommitment levels to social issues and volunteering, and Ramsey’s development model for theintegration of social issues into scientific processes. Schwartz’s model forms a linear, sequentialpath describing an individual’s moral and emotional development up to the point of takingaction, and forms the basis for the Community Service Attitudes Scale. Delve’s model is alsolinear and sequential, explaining the progression from peripheral volunteering to totalcommitment to a social issue, and forms the basis for the Scale of Service Learning Involvement.Incorporating these models into the new model describes the emotional/moral personaldevelopment, professional development, and the growth of social responsibility from peripheralvolunteering to full commitment to social issues using professional abilities. It is assumed thatthe new model will also be sequential for fully developed professional social responsibility, but itis possible for an individual to develop the personal sense of social responsibility without aninclusion of their professional abilities.The new model acknowledges two realms – personal social awareness and professionaldevelopment – which may progress independently until a point at which the individual realizesthat their professional abilities give them the ability to solve social issues, and moreover thatthere is an inherent professional responsibility to do so (see figure). At this stage, a deeperunderstanding of professional social responsibility is developed, leading to professionals whopossess a drive to solve social problems and see all of their work as service to their community.An assessment tool based upon the 12 steps of this new model is under development. A pilotstudy examining undergraduate and graduate civil and environmental engineering students isunderway. The assessment tool is a Likert-style survey with some short answer questions forqualitative support and draws many items from previously developed tools. Principalcomponents analysis on the first version of the instrument led to a revised instrument that will beadministered in Dec. 2011. Reliability and validity will be determined based upon the pilotstudy results. These results, supported by qualitative results, will also confirm the accuracy ofthe new model.Because this model is generic to professional development, it could be used beyond engineeringand applied to business, medicine, law or any other profession where there is an expectation ofsocial responsibility development. FIGURE 1. PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY DEVELOPMENT MODEL

Canney, N. E., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2012, June), A Model for the Development of Personal and Professional Social Responsibility for Engineers Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20830

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