Asee peer logo

Assessing the Ethical Development of Students in an Undergraduate Civil Engineering Course Using a Standardized Instrument

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.247.1 - 26.247.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Donald D. Carpenter Lawrence Technological University

visit author page

Donald D. Carpenter, Ph.D., P.E., LEED AP is Professor of Civil Engineering at Lawrence Technological University, where he teaches courses on ethics/professionalism and water resources. Dr. Carpenter has served as the University Director of Assessment and the founding Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. He conducts funded pedagogical research and development projects, has published numerous engineering education papers, and provides faculty development workshops on effective teaching. In 2006, the Kern Family Foundation named Dr. Carpenter a Kern Fellow for Entrepreneurial Education, recognizing his efforts to bring innovative team-based problem solving into the engineering curriculum to promote the entrepreneurial mindset. In addition to his work on ethics and entrepreneurial skills, Dr. Carpenter is an accredited green design professional (LEED AP) and practicing professional engineer. As founding Director of the Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute, he conducts research on water management and routinely provides professional lectures/short courses on innovative stormwater treatment design and its role in Low Impact Development implementation.

visit author page


Janel Sutkus Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Dr. Janel A. Sutkus is Director of Institutional Research and Analysis at Carnegie Mellon University, where she is responsible for analysis and assessment of administrative and academic functions university-wide and within CMU’s colleges. She holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and management from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and music from Cornell College.

Dr. Sutkus currently serves as lead methodologist on a multi-institutional, NSF-funded study to examine the relationship between engineering undergraduates’ ethical development and their curricular and extra-curricular experiences and institutional culture. She is a member of the Association for Institutional Research, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and the Association of American Universities Data Exchange.

visit author page


Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Cynthia Finelli, Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering and research associate professor of engineering education at the University of Michigan, earned B.S.E.E., M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. degrees from UM in 1988, 1989, and 1993, respectively. Prior to joining U-M in 2003, she was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University. In her current role, she coordinates faculty and TA professional development in the College of Engineering, conducts rigorous engineering education research, and promotes the growth of engineering education both locally at UM and nationally. Dr. Finelli's current research interests include evaluating methods to improve teaching, studying faculty motivation to change classroom practices, and exploring ethical decision-making in engineering students. A national presence in engineering education; she is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education, an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE.

visit author page


Trevor Scott Harding California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Dr. Trevor S. Harding is Professor of Materials Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, where he teaches courses in materials design, biomedical materials, and life cycle analysis. He has presented his research on engineering ethics to several universities and to the American Bar Association. He serves as Associate Editor of the journals Advances in Engineering Education and International Journal of Service Learning in Engineering. He serves as program chair for the Community Engagement Division of ASEE. Dr. Harding was invited to deliver a workshop on Ethics in the Engineering Curricula at the 2009 NSF Engineering Awardees Conference and to participate in the NSF Project Based Service Learning Summit. He received the 2008 President’s Service Learning Award for innovations in the use of service learning at Cal Poly. In 2004 he was named a Templeton Research Fellow by the Center for Academic Integrity. Dr. Harding received both the 1999 Apprentice Faculty Grant and 2000 New Faculty Fellow Award for his contributions to engineering education.

visit author page

author page

Rod Harris


Matthew L. Cole Lawrence Technological University

visit author page

Dr. Matthew Cole is a tenured Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing, College of Management, Lawrence Technological University. He is Chair of the Institutional Review Board, and Co-Chair of the Research Support Services Committee at Lawrence Tech. Dr. Cole teaches Business Statistics, Research Design-Quantitative Methods, Principles of Management, and Organization Development and Macro Change Theory. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Social Psychology across the Lifespan (CaSPaL) from Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.), where he conducted research on longitudinal growth modeling of risk behaviors and perceptions among adolescents from the U.S. and Vietnam. Dr. Cole also holds an M.A. in Biopsychology from Wayne State University, and an M.S. in Clinical Behavioral Psychology from Eastern Michigan University. He conducts research on a Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results (SOAR)-based approach to strategic thinking, teamwork, and coaching. He is also interested in the neuroscience of mindfulness and strategic thinking. Consulting contracts include state and international organizations to provide coaching and workshops on the application of diversity, SOAR-based strategy, and teamwork to strategic planning, and organization development and change.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Assessing the Ethical Development of Students in an Undergraduate Civil Engineering Course using a Standardized InstrumentABET requires “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility” but insuringstudents obtain these outcomes is program specific. Many programs struggle with how to includeethics in a robust technical curriculum. Consequently, there are numerous pedagogicalapproaches for teaching ethics including modules, individual courses, integration throughout thecurriculum, or as part of a capstone experience. Institutions also struggle when they attempt toevaluate the impact of these various approaches. Motivated by this diversity of pedagogicaltechniques and strategies for assessing their impact, we developed the Survey of EngineeringEthical Development – Practical Assessment (SEED-PA), a practical instrument for assessingindividual ethics initiatives at the, course, co-curricular, or single intervention level.This paper describes the application of a National Science Foundation funded researchinstrument across four distinct offerings of a senior level stand-alone civil engineering course inethics. The Survey of Engineering Ethical Development – Practical Assessment (SEED-PA) isan instrument designed to assess individual ethics initiatives at the, course, co-curricular, orsingle intervention level. Overall, our SEED-PA project is guided by four goals: Goal 1. Create a practical instrument for assessing individual ethics initiatives (SEED-PA) Goal 2. Use the SEED-PA to conduct four separate studies addressing important research questions and demonstrating the utility of the instrument Goal 3. Develop the SEED-PA User’s Guide to assist in research design, administration, data analysis, and interpretation of results Goal 4. Broadly disseminate the SEED-PA instrument and the SEED-PA User’s GuideTo date, the researchers have created the SEED-PA (Goal 1) and piloted tested the instrument atmultiple institutions (Goal 2). This paper describes the findings from one of the four pilot testswhich was the implementation of the survey across four semester offerings of a senior levelethics course in civil engineering. The course reinforces ethical behavior and discusses a widerange of contemporary issues using a variety of pedagogical techniques including synchronousonline learning. The course demonstrated an improvement in a student’s ethical development andknowledge of ethics based on the SEED-PA and was effective at meeting course objectives.

Carpenter, D. D., & Sutkus, J., & Finelli, C. J., & Harding, T. S., & Harris, R., & Cole, M. L. (2015, June), Assessing the Ethical Development of Students in an Undergraduate Civil Engineering Course Using a Standardized Instrument Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23587

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015