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Complexity, Right Action, and the Engineering Curriculum

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34317

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34317

Download Count

86

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Paper Authors

biography

R. Alan Cheville Bucknell University

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Alan Cheville studied optoelectronics and ultrafast optics at Rice University, followed by 14 years as a faculty member at Oklahoma State University working on terahertz frequencies and engineering education. While at Oklahoma State, he developed courses in photonics and engineering design. After serving for two and a half years as a program director in engineering education at the National Science Foundation, he took a chair position in electrical engineering at Bucknell University. He is currently interested in engineering design education, engineering education policy, and the philosophy of engineering education.

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biography

John Heywood Trinity College Dublin

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John Heywood is professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin- The University of Dublin. he is a Fellow of ASEE and Life Fellow of IEEE. he is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Ireland. He has special interest in education for the professions and the role of professions in society. He is author of Engineering Education. Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction; The Assessment of Learning in Engineering Education; The Human Side of Engineering, and Empowering Professional Teaching in Engineering

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Abstract

Today’s engineering students face a very different world than their predecessors. As engineering has adapted to a more global and interconnected economy, the issues that face today’s engineers have become more complex. In a highly networked world notions of the impact of an engineer’s actions on others, the basis for moral and ethical behavior, also become more complex. The definition of complex here captures higher-order and emergent behaviors, situations that can change rapidly, limitations to predictability, and behavior arising from interactions rather than innate to components. While ethics has remained central to engineering education and in general has retained its deontological basis, the ideas the serve as the basis for engineering ethics have changed over time and can be expected to change in the future. The fact that the future ethical challenges that engineering students will face will be distributed and complex while most engineering curricula focus on simplified systems and decisions indicates emerging challenges for effectively addressing engineering ethics within the curriculum.

Frameworks that distinguish simple and complicated from complex systems—in which outcomes are more uncertain—emphasize that action becomes more important than knowledge. In other words, it is more important to do what is right, even if one’s actions are imperfect, than know what is right to do. This paper explores the intersection of engineering curricula and engineering ethics from the perspective of “right action”, that is being able in act in ways that lead to ethical outcomes. It is argued that by focusing predominately on knowledge and situating learning in academic settings engineering curricula miss opportunities for developing capabilities for action. Through this lens the opportunities to address engineering ethics in the curriculum are seen to lie predominately outside traditional coursework.

Cheville, R. A., & Heywood, J. (2020, June), Complexity, Right Action, and the Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34317

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