Asee peer logo

Design Of Web Based Professional Ethics Modules To Alleviate Acculturation Barriers For International Graduate Students In Engineering

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Beyond Individual Ethics: Engineering in Context

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.372.1 - 13.372.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Byron Newberry Baylor University

visit author page

Byron Newberry, P.E., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Baylor University

visit author page


William Lawson Texas Tech University

visit author page

William D. Lawson, P.E., Ph.D.
Senior Research Associate, National Institute for Engineering Ethics & Assistant Professor Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering Texas Tech University

visit author page


Kathy Austin Texas Tech University

visit author page

Katherine A. Austin, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President, Information Technology Division, Texas Tech University

visit author page


Greta Gorsuch Texas Tech University

visit author page

Greta J. Gorsuch, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and Second Language Studies, Texas Tech University

visit author page


Thomas Darwin University of Texas at Austin

visit author page

Thomas Darwin, Ph.D.
Director, Professional Development & Community Engagement, The Graduate School, The University of Texas at Austin

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Design of Web-based Professional Ethics Modules to Alleviate Acculturation Barriers for International Graduate Students in Engineering


This paper reports on an ongoing National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored research and education project.1 In recent years, engineering programs in the United States have sought to develop a larger role for professional ethics education in the curriculum. Accreditation requirements have helped facilitate this shift. These requirements have themselves been developed to help ensure that engineering graduates have the knowledge and skills—non- technical as well as technical—needed in today’s engineering profession. With this in mind, it is worth noting that almost half of all engineering graduate students in the U.S. are international students. And about forty percent of these remain in the United States and are employed in some facet of engineering research and practice. It therefore seems prudent for the profession that these students, coming from diverse backgrounds, receive some systematic exposure to engineering ethics as it is conceived and practiced in the United States. International students face challenges that domestic students do not encounter—cultural competency, language proficiency, and acculturation stress—making them a natural audience for an educational intervention. This project aims to develop instructional materials that help international engineering graduate students in acclimating to engineering ethics standards and expectations in this country. The details of the materials and the research design to test their efficacy will be discussed.


In the last two or three decades there has been growing recognition within the engineering profession in the United States of the importance of professional ethics education for engineers.2,3 This is reflected in current ABET accreditation standards that require “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility” as well as other competencies related to understanding engineering’s role and impact in the wider world. This has by no means guaranteed that ethics education for U.S. engineering undergraduates is of a uniform content, quality, or depth.4 Nonetheless the movement appears to be clearly in the direction of more coverage, whether in the form of stand-alone ethics courses or ethics modules embedded in existing courses; at the very least, engineering programs must show that their graduates have been exposed to ethics content to a level adequate to satisfy evaluators.

The underlying presumption of such ethics education requirements is that they contribute to the professionalism of engineers and hence to the welfare of the public. The vast majority of undergraduate engineering students will directly enter the engineering workplace. The desire is for them to possess an understanding of the “application of moral principles and professional standards to situations encountered by professionals in the practice of engineering.”5 But the specific expectations placed upon engineers in the United States for professionalism and ethical conduct are based upon the particular conception of engineering and engineering ethics that exists in this country. That conception of engineering and engineering ethics is a product of the historical interplay of U.S. engineering professional organizations, U.S. engineering educational

Newberry, B., & Lawson, W., & Austin, K., & Gorsuch, G., & Darwin, T. (2008, June), Design Of Web Based Professional Ethics Modules To Alleviate Acculturation Barriers For International Graduate Students In Engineering Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4365

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: © 2008 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