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Engineering Ethical Curricula: Assessment Of Two Approaches And Recommendations

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Ethics Classes: Creative or Inefficient

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.545.1 - 10.545.7



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Paper Authors

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Paul Griffin

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Julie Swann

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Robert Kirkman

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Matthew Drake

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

Engineering Ethical Curricula: Assessment of Two Approaches and Recommendations Matthew J. Drake*, Paul M. Griffin*, Robert Kirkman+, Julie L. Swann* *School of Industrial & Systems Engineering + School of Public Policy Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 30332-0205


In this paper, we assess two approaches for delivery of engineering ethics: a full semester ethics course and an engineering course that includes a discipline-specific ethics module. We use the second edition of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) to measure moral reasoning ability. We compare improvement of moral reasoning ability for each class pre and post ethical instruction and compare the results to a control class with no ethical instruction. Although the full term ethics course had more improvement than the single module, neither ethical intervention showed significant improvement over the control group. We also found that there was little distinction between males and females and no distinction by age, although education level did have an impact on ethical judgment. Our results of the experimental groups compared to the control group suggest that the approaches that many universities use to provide ethical instruction to engineers is not sufficient to have an impact on general ethical reasoning ability. We provide recommendations for improving ethics in engineering education, such as an integrative approach delivered at multiple points in the curriculum and incorporating discipline-specific context.


The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology requires that engineering programs introduce students to ethical issues that arise from the practice of engineering [1]. As a result, many engineering departments have recently worked to incorporate ethics into their already crowded curriculum. In this paper, we compare two general approaches to teaching professional ethics to undergraduate students, with a particular focus on the effectiveness of each mode in improving moral judgment.

The College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) uses both approaches to teaching engineering ethics. About half of the schools, including Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, require students to take a three-credit, semester-length course related to ethics; students choose this course from a menu of options offered by the School of Public Policy and the School of International Affairs, among others. The remaining schools in the College of Engineering have opted for the introduction of ethics-related modules directly into required engineering courses, which is the approach taken by the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE).

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Griffin, P., & Swann, J., & Kirkman, R., & Drake, M. (2005, June), Engineering Ethical Curricula: Assessment Of Two Approaches And Recommendations Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15367

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