Asee peer logo

Differences in Ethical Decision-making Between Experts and Novices: A Comparative Study

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.544.1 - 26.544.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Madhumitha Ramachandran University of Oklahoma

visit author page

Madhumitha Ramachandran received her Bachelor of Technology in Bioengineering in May 2012 from SASTRA University, India. She is currently a M.S. candidate in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at The University of Oklahoma. Madhumitha is always excited about school and looks to other motivated students to share her learning with them. Looking forward for a career in academia, she developed an interest for engineering education. Her recent research on engineering ethics, peer-to-peer learning in the design process has helped her identify the effective approaches to educate engineering students, in order to meet the demands of their profession. She will be starting her PhD in the fall of 2015 at The University of Oklahoma.

visit author page


Diana Bairaktarova University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

visit author page

Dr. Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Practice in the College of Engineering at University of Oklahoma. Through real-world engineering applications, Dr. Bairaktarova’s experiential learning research spans from engineering to psychology to learning sciences, as she uncovers how individual performance is influenced by aptitudes, spatial skills, personal interests and direct manipulation of mechanical objects.

visit author page


Anna Woodcock California State University San Marcos

visit author page

Anna Woodcock is a social psychologist and faculty member at the California State University San Marcos. She is currently investigating: individual differences in motivations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers; the psychological processes underlying the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM; and models for teaching and understanding ethical decision-making.

visit author page

author page

Othman Mohammed Bawareth University of Oklahoma

Download Paper |


Differences in Ethical Decision making between experts and novices: A Comparative StudyEthics is a pivotal feature in developing professionalism in engineers. The production of moral behavioris intricate and demands at least four different psychological processes: moral sensitivity, moraljudgment, moral motivation and moral character and implementation. Moral motivation plays a criticalrole in predicting an individual’s ethical behavior but it is not easy to assess. According to literaturemany variables such as gender, age, work experience, personality, nationality and cultural backgroundplay a role in ethical decisions.Work experience plays a critical role in professional engineers and graduate students by exposing themto more life challenging situations than the undergraduate students (novices). The goal of this study is tocompare the differences in ethical decisions by measuring the individual differences and responses toethical case studies of three different groups: professional engineers, graduate students, andundergraduate students. Individual differences in moral motivation are important for understandinghow people deal with ethical dilemmas. This study was conducted at a large university in the UnitedStates in the Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 semesters. Our sample consists of 60 people of three differentgroups: 20 professional engineers, 20 graduate students, and 20 undergraduate students.To compare the differences in decision making, a structured questionnaire was administered to eachparticipant. The questionnaire consisted of some demographic questions followed by three personalitymeasure tests (Person and Thing Orientations, Pauhlus Spheres of control, and Big Five Personality Test)and five ethical cases adopted from Lockhead Martin Ethics Challenge Games. Guided by the literature,we hypothesized that undergraduate students who are novices are ethically challenged in decisionmaking when compared to professional engineers and graduate students. Our study is at the stage ofanalyzing the data. The findings and applications for engineering instruction will be shared in the draftpaper.

Ramachandran, M., & Bairaktarova, D., & Woodcock, A., & Bawareth, O. M. (2015, June), Differences in Ethical Decision-making Between Experts and Novices: A Comparative Study Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23882

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: © 2015 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