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Comparison of Engagement with Ethics between an Engineering and a Business Programs

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Issues Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.349.1 - 22.349.9



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Paper Authors

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Steven Culver Virginia Tech


Vinod K. Lohani Virginia Tech

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Vinod K. Lohani is a professor in the Engineering Education Department and an adjunct faculty in the Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. His research interests are in the areas of knowledge modeling, water and energy sustainability, engineering learning modules for freshmen, and international collaboration. He led a five-year DLR/NSF project at Virginia Tech. A spiral curriculum approach is adopted to reformulate engineering curriculum in bioprocess engineering in this project. He co-authored an award winning paper with his Ph.D. student (Dr. Jennifer Mullin) at the 2007 annual conference of ASEE.

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Ishwar K. Puri Virginia Tech

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Ishwar K. Puri has served as Professor and Department Head of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) at Virginia Tech since 2004, where he also directs the Multiphysics Research Group (MuRG).

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Comparison of Engagement with Ethics between an Engineering and a Business ProgramsThis large university enrolls about 6,000 engineering undergraduates and 3,800undergraduates in the business school. In 2008, a group of engineering and businessschool faculty, along with experts in philosophy and academic assessment, received agrant under the ethics education in engineering and science (EESE) program of theNational Science Foundation. The goal is to develop a graduate-level interdisciplinarycurriculum in ethics.As part of this project, a survey was developed to provide a baseline measure of howstudents perceive their ethics instruction and how they understand ethical issues,particularly as they relate to global differences, issues of advocacy and ethical leadership,and ethics and emerging technologies. The survey consisted of two sections. The firstwas focused on “perceptions of the curriculum” and included 11 items. For each item,students were asked their level of agreement or disagreement according to a six-pointscale: 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (somewhat disagree), 3 (disagree), 4 (agree), 5 (somewhatagree), and 6 (strongly disagree). Items in this section included such questions as “in mycurriculum, there has been a substantial emphasis on teaching ethics,” “in my classes,cultural differences in ethics have been discussed, and “I have been taught the differencesbetween ethical relativism and ethical absolutism.” The second section of the surveyincluded 11 statements to which students could agree/disagree on the same six-pointscale. This section focused on “perceptions of ethical issues” and included items such as“if a professional practice is legal, then it is also necessarily ethical,” “ethics do not varyfrom situation to situation, and ” ethical issues do not pertain to technological advances.”This survey was implemented in both engineering and business programs: 566engineering students and 276 business students (undergraduate and graduate) respondedto the survey. This paper has two main objectives: (i) discuss results of a college-widesurvey administered to gauge the perceptions of undergraduate and graduate students,both in engineering and business programs, regarding their current ethics instruction and(ii) compare the key differences in students’ engagement with ethics in engineering andbusiness programs. Across both sections of the survey, business students perceivedgreater engagement with ethics education than did engineering students. For example,when asked “in my curriculum, there has been a substantial emphasis on teaching ethics”business students were more likely to agree than were engineering students (p<.05). Inaddition, business students were more likely to believe that their textbooks and coursematerials often covered ethical issues; more likely to say that their “professorsdemonstrate a great deal of knowledge regarding ethical issues”; and more likely to saythat their professors “expressed concern over ethical issues in applied settings.” Thesedifferences are consistent at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Culver, S., & Lohani, V. K., & Puri, I. K. (2011, June), Comparison of Engagement with Ethics between an Engineering and a Business Programs Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17630

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