June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Purpose. Ethics is too-often relegated to a stand-alone course taken late in engineering programs, rather than effectively integrated into core coursework [1, 2]. Faculty sometimes have concerns that such integration will be challenging for students to manage or might distract them from core content. However, ethics-across-the-curriculum helps students understand the link between the engineering work and its positive and negative impacts and also see ethical considerations as part of engineering, rather than an add-on [2, 3]. In this study, therefore, we investigated opportunities for integration of ethics education into design challenges.
Methodology. We collected data in a first-year, 1-credit chemical engineering course that included an entrepreneurial design challenge (OPE challenge) and a community-based design challenge (AMD challenge). Both challenges culminated in short, video-recorded team pitches of their design solutions. We conducted qualitative analysis, coding the videos from five semesters (N= 69 four- to five-member teams). Specifically, we attended to ethical reasoning (nonmaleficence, beneficence, stakeholder agency and just distribution of risks and benefits). We compared the design challenges in terms of the kinds of ethical considerations students made using a two-tailed sign test.
Results. In both challenges, students consider multiple points of view and described the benefits of their design solutions. Few students considered nonmaleficence. Some students provided detailed perspectives of needs or benefits for those form marginalized or vulnerable populations (children with special needs, elderly, Navajo Nation). In the acid mine drainage challenge, a few teams proposed expensive solutions and warranted these costs by emphasizing the damage to people and planet. Most teams proposed feasible solutions and considered specific community concerns. We found that the entrepreneurial challenge prompted significantly more teams to use beneficence in their arguments, z = 3.92, p < .001.
Conclusions and Implications. Our results demonstrate that even with limited prompting to do so, a realistic design challenge can support students to employ ethical reasoning. We found that few students considered nonmaleficence, suggesting the need for scaffolding. Likewise, although some students provided considered accounts of the needs of marginalized or vulnerable populations, specific scaffolding could better support this.
Hedayati Mehdiabadi, A., & James, J. O., & Svihla, V. (2019, June), Ethical Reasoning in First-Year Engineering Design Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32757
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