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Can Our Students Recognize And Resolve Ethical Dilemmas?

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.283.1 - 9.283.15



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Paper Authors

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Rosa Pinkus

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Mary Besterfield-Sacre

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Mark Sindelar

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Carl Mitcham

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Barbara Olds

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Ronald Miller

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Harvey Wolfe

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

ASEE Abstract: Session Number 1526 DELOS

Can Our Students Recognize and Resolve Ethical Dilemmas?* Larry J. Shuman, Mark F. Sindelar, Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Harvey Wolfe and Rosa L. Pinkus University of Pittsburgh Ronald L. Miller, Barbara M. Olds, and Carl Mitcham Colorado School of Mines

Abstract ABET’s accreditation criteria have provided additional impetus for preparing engineering gradu- ates to understand their professional and ethical responsibilities. Accordingly, engineering ethics courses have stressed skills acquisition rather than behavior change. However, to date, methods to assess students’ ability to resolve ethical dilemmas remain largely undeveloped. As part of a joint study at the University of Pittsburgh and the Colorado School of Mines, we are developing a measurement tool for assessing students’ abilities to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas. To date we have constructed and validated an analytic scoring rubric for ethical dilemmas con- sisting of five components: recognition of and framing the dilemma; use of information (both known and unknown, i.e., facts or concepts needed to resolve the problem but not included in the case text); analysis of the scenario; perspective taken; and suggested resolution. We have used the rubric to evaluate the capabilities of 120 students, ranging from freshman to graduate levels using a test consisting of three ethical dilemmas for which the student provides a written analy- sis. The analyses are then holistically scored using the rubric that allows us to classify the stu- dent’s level of achievement. We present the results of these tests and discuss the lessons learned from this experiment. Our long-term objective is to develop a web-based assessment instrument similar to CSM’s Cogito system for assessing intellectual development that can be effectively used by engineering faculty to assess students’ ability to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas.

Introduction Led by national commissions, industry leaders, and progressive educators [1-4], the Accredita- tion Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) adopted its innovative Engineering Criteria 2000 in 1997 [5-6]. Today 1700 accredited programs have implemented continuous improve- ment systems that include individually defined objectives, outcomes, and an assessment process with the timely feedback of results. A minimum set of eleven outcomes covers both “hard” en- gineering skills; e.g., ability to design and conduct experiments; identify, formulate and solve problems; and use modern engineering tools, and such “professional” skills as the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams, communicate effectively, understand engineering in a global and so- cietal context, recognize the need for life long learning, possess a knowledge of contemporary issues, and understand professional and ethical responsibilities, which is the focus of this paper.

Engineering educators have made considerable progress in assessing the “hard” skills, but as- sessment of the “professional” skills lags. In 2001, our research team from the University of Pittsburgh and the Colorado School of Mines received a NSF Proof-of–Concept award (DUE 01- 27394) to demonstrate the feasibility of developing an engaging system for assessing the ability

* This research has been supported in part by NSF Grant DUE 01-27394.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Pinkus, R., & Besterfield-Sacre, M., & Sindelar, M., & Shuman, L., & Mitcham, C., & Olds, B., & Miller, R., & Wolfe, H. (2004, June), Can Our Students Recognize And Resolve Ethical Dilemmas? Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13015

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