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Application of Interrupted Case Method for Teaching Ethics to Graduate Students in Transportation Engineering

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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

Methods, Techniques, and New Programs in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.193.1 - 25.193.18



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Paper Authors


Robert M. Brooks Temple University

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Robert Brooks is an Associate Professor of civil engineering at Temple University. He is a Fellow of ASCE. His research interests are engineering education, civil engineering materials, and transportation engineering.

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Jyothsna Kavuturu

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Jyothsna K. S., Department of English, St.Joseph’s College, Bangalore, secured a gold medal for the highest aggregate marks in the Post Graduate English Literature Course at St.Joseph’s College (autonomous). K. S. has been working for the Department of English, St.Joseph’s College for almost two years now, teaching both undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in English. K. S. has published papers in intramural and extramural publications, and presented papers at several conventions, conferences, and

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Mehmet Cetin Temple University

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Mehmet Cetin is a doctorate candidate of civil engineering at Temple University. He has master's degree. His research interests are engineering education, civil engineering materials, and transportation engineering.

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Application of Interrupted Case Method for Teaching Ethics to Graduate Students in Transportation EngineeringEthics is an important subject and is an integral part of professional practice. However, very fewfaculty teach ethics as a significant part of their classes. Engineers can have either a positive ornegative social impact. Therefore, it is critical that their decisions are based on sound ethicaljudgment . This need was the driving force for the authors’ motivation to pursue the study.The objective of this study is to apply Interrupted Case Method for Teaching Ethics to GraduateStudents in a Transportation Engineering program course. In fall 2008 a graduate course,“Intelligent Transportation Systems”, was taught using a traditional lecture method. This coursewas used as the control group. In spring 2011 an experimental group was taught with an ethicscomponent that counted for 15% of the grade.Performance of the control group was compared with that of the experimental (ethics) group.The average course grades for the control group and the experimental groups were 65 and 75respectively. The experimental group showed 15.3% improvement over the control group. Witha calculated t value of 2.7, the groups are significantly different. The improvement of the ethicsgroup was statistically significant at an alpha value of 0.05.In this study the value of Teaching Ethics is documented. Students that engage in unethicalbehavior will most likely continue to do so as employees. Professional unethical behavior cancause significant tangible and intangible losses to employers in particular and society in general.Many students reported (in their survey) that, up until this class, their education did notadequately prepare them for the ethical and moral dilemmas they would encounter asprofessionals. In their oral and written reports they stated that prior to this course they relied onpre-existing beliefs mostly based on their gut-feelings and observations of their peers’ behaviors.These reports are in agreement with those of Johansen and Luckowski. The improvements ingrade and personal survey results indicate that this class provided the students with valuableinsight into the ethical problems they will encounter as professional and a framework for makingethical decisions.The authors strongly agree with the statement of Herreid that the greatest strength of cases is“that they integrate material across many fields and demand critical thinking in assessinginformation.”The authors further agree with Herreid’s argument that the best technique for using cases is the“Interrupted Case Method.” This process represents much of the work conducted in engineeringby letting the students’ thoughts and processes continually be refined as additional data isreceived. Ten case studies involving problems that are commonly faced in engineering practice,were taught in the course. The students received the data in 3 steps. Each step was separated byone month. The “interrupted case method” gave the students opportunities to increase theircritical thinking skills (by 32%), flexibility (by 26%) and the ability to see alternative approaches(by28%).The authors plan to extend this strategy to two other courses over the next two years. The methodpresented in this study may be used at other institutions with appropriate modifications in orderto prepare the students for the ethical dilemmas they will encounter when they enter engineeringpractice.

Brooks, R. M., & Kavuturu, J., & Cetin, M. (2012, June), Application of Interrupted Case Method for Teaching Ethics to Graduate Students in Transportation Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20953

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