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Ethical Climate in Multidisciplinary Teams: Development of the TECS

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Evaluation of Ethical Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.537.1 - 24.537.12



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Paper Authors


Jill L. May Illinois Institute of Technology

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Jill May is currently in the industrial/organizational psychology Ph.D. program at Illinois Institute of Technology. She received her M.S. in psychology in 2012. She has presented several papers on ethical climate, team ethics, and interdisciplinary teams at professional conferences.

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Alan Mead Illinois Institute of Technology

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Alan D. Mead is an assistant professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he teaches individual differences, psychometrics, structural equations modeling, meta-analysis, research methods, and statistical analysis. He sits on the editorial board for the Journal of Business and Psychology and the Journal of Computerized Adaptive Testing. Since 1989, he has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and conference presentations. Prior to joining the faculty at IIT, he spent several years as a consultant, research scientist, and psychometrician. Dr. Mead received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2000 with a concentration on I/O psychology and a minor concentration on quantitative psychology.

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James Kemp Ellington Illinois Institute of Technology

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Dr. Kemp Ellington is an assistant professor in the psychology department at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology in 2006 from North Carolina State University. His primary areas of research are in performance management and training and development, including multilevel influences on learning and performance in team/group settings. Dr. Ellington is currently a co-principal investigator on an NSF/TUES grant examining individual ethical reasoning and team ethical climate in interdisciplinary undergraduate design teams.

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Ethical Climate in Multidisciplinary Teams: Development of the TECSSince the ABET call for a greater emphasis on engineering ethics education, researchers andteaching professionals have incorporated applied ethics into the curriculum (Frey, Sanchez, &Cruz, 2002). However, most of the work on applied ethics has focused on individual leveldevelopment (Colby & Sullivan, 2008). Little attention has been paid to how students thinkabout ethics and make decisions at a team level. Additionally, creating assessments for teamethics has presented a significant challenge. The present research project has been developed toenhance the research on multidisciplinary team ethics and advance the measurement and utilityof team ethics in the classroom to prepare engineering students for the real world. This paper isa progress report on a collaborative effort of team-based project programs at four universitiesfunded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under a Transforming UndergraduateEducation in Science (TUES) Phase 2 grant.One way to look empirically evaluate team ethics is through ethical climate, a type of workclimate that consists of the shared attitudes toward ethical behaviors and considerations. Ethicalclimate is influenced by organizational level policies, managerial support, and practices (Cullen& Martin, 2006). Research has identified five types of ethical climate that reoccur acrossstudies: personal benefit, caring, independence, rules, and laws and codes (May & Gandara,2010; Lemmergaard & Lauridsen, 2008; Martin & Cullen, 2006). Employees can use multipleethical climates in decision making. Measures of ethical climate emphasize that certain climatetypes are relevant in different contexts (i.e. ethical problem occurs internally in the team, theissue relates to laws; Victor & Cullen, 1988).The researchers have adapted the concept of ethical climate and brought it to multidisciplinarystudent teams. Teams on longer projects often face ethical problems, and the researchersdeveloped a tool to address some of the unique considerations for ethics in multidisciplinaryteams. Researchers developed the Team Ethical Climate Survey (TECS) to measure studentteam ethical climate. This instrument was adapted in part from the Ethical ClimateQuestionnaire (ECQ; Victor & Cullen, 1987), including the team interest, laws and codes,personal morality, rules and procedures, and self-interest scales. Authors also included care,interdisciplinary professional ethics, and shared decision-making scales.The paper will discuss the development of the TECS scale for multidisciplinary teams. Morespecifically, it will focus on an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) conducted on TECS data inorder to determine if the developed test scales emerged as factors with the student data. The datawas collected for 521 undergraduate students involved with long-term (semester length orlonger) multidisciplinary team projects. The TECS was administered at the midpoint of thesemester. Results indicated that five factors emerged: team interest (alpha=.91), self-interest(alpha=.79), personal morality (alpha=.55), discussion of issues (alpha=.74), and differences invalues (alpha=.71). The authors will discuss future developments for the TECS and its use inthe classroom. Additional findings and insights of interest will be explored, and implications forengineering faculty and professionals will be provided.

May, J. L., & Mead, A., & Ellington, J. K. (2014, June), Ethical Climate in Multidisciplinary Teams: Development of the TECS Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20428

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