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Ethics Education as Enculturation: Student Learning of Personal, Social, and Professional Responsibility

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Dean Nieusma Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dean Nieusma is Associate Dean for Curricular Transitions, Associate Professor in Science and Technology Studies, and Director of the Programs in Design and Innovation at Rensselaer.

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Mitch Cieminski Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Mitch Cieminski received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA in 2017. They are currently pursuing a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, studying the intersections of engineering cultures, peace and ethics, educational power structures, and the experiences of disabled, queer, and trans engineers.

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This paper explores how engineering students understand and experience the meaning and role of ethics within their own life experiences, the context of their education, and their projections of professional practice. The project takes a distinctly empirical approach to engineering ethics, seeking to identify what is most salient about ethics and ethics education from the perspective of the students we interviewed, in micro- and macroethical levels across the personal, social, and professional dimensions. Through interviews and observation of ethics-related institutional activities, we connect student experiences and knowledge of ethics applied in diverse areas of students’ education. We find that many students interviewed perceive deficiencies in their understandings of ethics, have a desire to discuss their ethics-related experiences, use negative frames such as harm or disaster avoidance to consider engineering ethics, and value trust and security in the educational environment as an important part of improved ethical outcomes. We identify a few implications of these themes for engineering ethics researchers and instructors: that ethics should be treated explicitly and regularly across engineering education, that ethics discourses should be disentangled from perceptions of moralizing, and that ethics reform efforts ought to be attuned to educational cultures, not just individual knowledge or capacities.

Nieusma, D., & Cieminski, M. (2018, June), Ethics Education as Enculturation: Student Learning of Personal, Social, and Professional Responsibility Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30443

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