San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.584.1 - 25.584.15
Ethical Issues Awareness for Engineers in PracticeAs a discipline, engineering ethics is a relatively young one. Younger still is the question of howto teach engineering ethics. Like other applied disciplines, the challenge of engineering ethics isto offer content that is both useful to practitioners and genuinely substantive (i.e. moves beyondglossy generalizations about the importance of honesty, non-malfeasance, etc.). Additionally,engineering ethics education, it is hoped, will make students 1) less likely to engage in academicdishonesty 2) more likely to succeed on the ethics portion of the F.E. and 3) more aware of theobligations and issues they are likely to face in engineering practice. While each of theseadditional desiderata is important, the last is arguably the most important. It can also be the mostpedagogically challenging.In this paper, we will explore the challenges posed by the third goal above in the context of anassignment used in both an engineering communications course and an engineering ethics courseat a research institution. In this assignment, the Social Impact Analysis (SIA), students are askedto identify and research a current engineering design, product, or concept that is (or soon will be)impacting society. The design, product or concept must be documented and patented orcopyrighted. Students are also required to identify the actual and/or potential negativeimplications of the design/product/concept. Prima facie, this assignment promises to helpacquaint students with the complexity of deploying new technology in society. However, asanalyses and discussions become more nuanced (in light of complexity), they can also becomemore abstract and, therefore, less practically important to students. If not handled properly, anassignment like the SIA can be viewed as an exercise in intellectual curiosity and little more.Worse still, it may actually lead to exasperation with attempts to carefully explore ethicalobligations in engineering. To be most effective, then, the SIA requires the right setup.We will explore several iterations of the SIA based on different contexts (e.g. use in anengineering writing/communications course, use in an engineering ethics course, and use as astand-alone assignment). We will enumerate what we take to be reasonable goals for the SIAgiven these contexts. These goals will determine how the assignment is to be completed andevaluated. Finally, we will explore the use of the SIA in a K-12 setting. Despite the potentialcomplexity the SIA can lead to, it may be most effective when used in K-12 STEM education.
Fontenot, A. D., & Burgess, R. A. (2012, June), Ethical Issues Awareness for Engineers in Practice Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21341
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