June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.88.1 - 14.88.10
A Preliminary Survey of Engineering Ethics Courses Nationwide
It is not enough that engineering students leave campus and head into a job with only the ability to perform calculations. We live in a world where engineers must not just think about design, but also about the implications of those designs, or how they impact people and the environment. Engineering ethics carries momentous importance. How many undergraduate engineering programs require a full course in engineering ethics? What kinds of topics and case studies do students in these courses examine? What specifically do students learn in these engineering ethics courses? How do programs assess students’ awareness of ethical issues and judgment? What kinds of changes may be necessary to improve engineering ethics education? This article presents the findings of a preliminary survey of engineering ethics courses at several campuses.
A survey on engineering ethics was sent to various colleges and universities with engineering programs. The authors teach in civil engineering departments, so consequently most of the initial contacts were also civil engineering faculty who are friends or acquaintances of the authors. The initial contacts were asked to complete the survey or, if they thought they were unable, to pass the survey to a colleague who could respond to the questions more knowledgeably. In all, 16 people from 10 institutions in 9 states provided responses to the surveys. The respondents included all academic ranks, deans to assistant professors.
Several references about engineering ethics education were useful in the development of the survey.1,2,3,4,5 With this survey, the authors hoped to capture a sense of engineering ethics education in terms of courses, content, assessment, and future plans. The following questions appeared on the survey:
• Do you feel an ethics course taught specifically to engineering students is necessary, or can ethics best be taught to engineering students as a general education requirement or learned on the job? • Do any of your engineering departments have a full course in ethics? • Excluding any full courses in ethics, how many additional engineering courses address ethics in some way? What are these courses? How much time is spent on ethics in these courses? • How do you teach students about engineering ethics? What kinds of topics and case studies do students in these courses examine? • How do you assess students’ awareness of engineering ethical issues? How do you assess students’ judgment? • Do you think your program should improve engineering ethics education? To accomplish this, what changes may be necessary?
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