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Conceptualizing a Theory of Ethical Behavior in Engineering

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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

Reimagining Engineering Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

24

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34324

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34324

Download Count

13

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Paper Authors

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Luan Minh Nguyen Iowa State University

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Luan M. Nguyen is an MA/Ph.D. student in Anthropology/Civil Engineering, who completed his Master of Science in Biochemistry at Iowa State University and his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Hartwick College. His first master's thesis focused on the structural analysis of the schizophrenic gene DISC1 using transmission electron microscopy and hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. For his second master's thesis, he focuses on identifying the individual and institutional factors that contribute to a "culture of disengagement" from the ethical dimension of engineering work among students in the engineering profession. His Ph.D. project is funded by the NSF and is concerned with promoting and improving engineering students' ethical behavior and sensitivity through on-campus student organizations. His academic interests include mental health, international development, human rights, and engineering ethics. Currently, his ambition is to work within an international organization such as UNESCO and to be an advocate for promoting science and technology as critical tools of sustainable development as well as to participate in the dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, and society. Luan enjoys traveling, reading, and watching documentaries.

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Cristina Poleacovschi Iowa State University

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Dr. Poleacovschi is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. She researches issues of diversity, ethics and critical thinking in engineering.

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Kasey M. Faust University of Texas at Austin Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7986-4757

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Dr. Kasey Faust is an Assistant Professor in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research on sociotechnical systems—primarily water sector infrastructure—aims to improve service to communities. Dr. Faust’s work spans the project phase during construction through the operations phase, exploring human-infrastructure interactions, infrastructure interdependencies, and the institutional environment. Current studies within her research group include: human-water sector infrastructure interdependencies in cities experiencing urban decline; disaster migration and the resilience of the built environment; incorporating equity into water infrastructure decision-making; sociotechnical modeling of infrastructure systems including gentrification and food deserts; the impact of policies and regulations on the built environment; understanding the impact of institutional elements on projects; and modeling of public perceptions.

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Kate Padgett Walsh Iowa State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5215-6475

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Dr. Kate Padgett Walsh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Iowa State University. She received a B.A. from Middlebury College, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on ethics and the history of ethics, including the ethics of debt and finance, as well as the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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Scott Grant Feinstein

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Dr. Scott Feinstein is an expert in research design and comparative and identity politics.

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Cassandra Rutherford Iowa State University

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Dr. Cassandra Rutherford is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Constructions and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on geotechnical engineering and engineering education.

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Abstract

Traditional engineering courses typically approach teaching and problem solving by focusing on the physical dimensions of those problems without consideration of dynamic social and ethical dimensions. As such, projects can fail to consider community questions and concerns, broader impacts upon society, or otherwise result in inequitable outcomes. And, despite the fact that students in engineering receive training on the Professional Code of Ethics for Engineers, to which they are expected to adhere in practice, many students are unable to recognize and analyze real-life ethical challenges as they arise. Indeed, research has found that students are typically less engaged with ethics—defined as the awareness and judgment of microethics and macroethics, sensitivity to diversity, and interest in promoting organizational ethical culture—at the end of their engineering studies than they were at the beginning. As such, many studies have focused on developing and improving the curriculum surrounding ethics through, for instance, exposing students to ethics case studies. However, such ethics courses often present a narrow and simplified view of ethics that students may struggle to integrate with their broader experience as engineers. Thus, there is a critical need to unpack the complexity of ethical behavior amongst engineering students in order to determine how to better foster ethical judgment and behavior. Promoting ethical behavior among engineering students and developing a culture of ethical behavior within institutions have become goals of many engineering programs. Towards this goal, we present an overview of the current scholarship of engineering ethics and propose a theoretical framework of ethical behavior using a review of articles related to engineering ethics from 1990-2020. These articles were selected based upon their diversity of scope and methods until saturation was reached. A thematic analysis of articles was then performed using Nvivo. The review engages in theories across disciplines including philosophy, education and psychology. Preliminary results identify two major kinds of drivers of ethical behavior, namely individual level ethical behavior drivers (awareness of microethics, awareness of macroethics, implicit understanding, and explicit understanding) and institutional drivers (diversity and institutional ethical culture). In this paper, we present an overview and discussion of two drivers of ethical behavior at the individual level, namely awareness of microethics and awareness of macroethics, based on a review of 50 articles. Our results indicate that an awareness of both microethics and macroethics is essential in promoting ethical behavior amongst students. The review also points to a need to focus on increasing students’ awareness of macroethics. This research thus addresses the need, driven by existing scholarship, to identify a conceptual framework for explaining how ethical judgment and behavior in engineering can be further promoted.

Nguyen, L. M., & Poleacovschi, C., & Faust, K. M., & Padgett Walsh, K., & Feinstein, S. G., & Rutherford, C. (2020, June), Conceptualizing a Theory of Ethical Behavior in Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34324

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