June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.643.1 - 26.643.16
Engineering Students’ Varied and Changing Views of Social ResponsibilityEngineering students have been found to have a wide range of opinions on their socialresponsibilities as engineers. These ideas relate to a variety of microethical and macroethicalissues from safety to equality. A previous large quantitative study found that 43% of thestudents experienced statistically significant changes in their social responsibility attitudes. Tworesearch questions are being explored in this research: (i) How do engineering students changetheir understanding of social responsibility from the end of their first year in college to the end oftheir second year of college? (ii) What experiences seemed to cause these changes? To answerthese research questions, a qualitative approach was used.Students representing a broad range of attitudes toward social responsibility (SR) were invited toparticipate in the research based on their responses to a survey at the beginning of their first yearof college. Thirty-four students were interviewed in their second semester of college, and thirty-two of these students were interviewed again one year later. Interviews were semi-structured andthe protocol differed between the two cycles to build from the previous interview. In the secondround, students represented six different engineering majors (primarily civil, environmental andmechanical), five students were no longer engineering majors, and seven different institutions(initially four institutions). Students were again asked to define SR and what influenced thesechanges or reinforced the same definition from the previous year. Interviews were analyzed forimportant themes using the codebook developed for the first round of interviews while remainingopen to new codes. The three authors coded a set of ten interviews (four per person with one incommon) and acceptable inter-rater reliability was achieved. Two authors continued analyzingthe remaining interviews using this reliable codebook.During the first round of interviews, family, friends and high school extracurricular activitiesoutweighed college courses and extracurriculars as influences on SR understanding. In thesecond round, definitions of and influences on SR were usually more developed and detailed dueto influences from a variety of factors ranging from internships and college extracurricularactivities to popular media coverage of natural and economic disasters. Students still enrolled inan engineering program rarely attributed their definition change or reinforcement to the classesoffered at their institution. On the contrary, students who chose to leave engineering for anothermajor had a much broader and more engaged sense of social responsibility that was largelyinfluenced by courses available to them outside of engineering.The varied and rich experiences of these 32 students will guide a discussion around the gap ofsocially relevant content in engineering courses and the implications for retention of studentswho need to connect their chosen profession and courses with their personal socialresponsibility. Recommendations and references for relating courses to student interests andpassions will be presented to move forward in educating the holistic, socially engaged engineer.Third and fourth round interviews will be conducted in future years to paint a longer and evenmore comprehensive picture of these students’ developmental trajectories through college.
Rulifson, G., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2015, June), Engineering Students’ Varied and Changing Views of Social Responsibility Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23981
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