June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.686.1 - 26.686.11
Ethics for First-Year STEM: A Risk Assessment Based Approach This paper will detail the development of a first year seminar focused on the discussionof ethical issues in engineering for STEM students. The seminar course was intended to providea broad introduction to ethics through discussions and writing assignments focused on casestudies of engineering catastrophes, meeting once a week for ninety minutes, as well as engagestudents in college level critical thinking skills . During the small and large group discussions, the class explored both the engineering and cultural implications of both recent and historical disasters with examples take from recent and historical tragedies . The initial lecture of each session focused on what engineering/human factors led to these cataclysmic events and how engineering development, public policy, and society responded. Early discussions also covered classical ethical frameworks and moral decision-‐making (e.g. Deontological, Teleological, Fairness, Common Good, etc.) . During the early discussions, students reported high levels of satisfaction with the technical descriptions of the catastrophes and the discussions of the underlying ethical choices. However, students found it difficult to create a personal relationship to topics and desired a more structured (tiered) framework with which to evaluate potential ethical decisions. Since the class was focused on engineering catastrophes, the concepts of safety and acceptable risk were omnipresent and used as the framework to assess larger ethical concepts. With additional evaluative tools (uncertainty in engineering design, risk-‐benefit analyses, quantification of personal/public risk, risk perception), students found a greater ability to personally relate to complex ethical decisions inherent in the more complicated case studies, including emergent issues with significant scientific uncertainty (such as the environmental impact of nanotechnology) . Using these tools, their discussions and papers presented a more nuanced and enlightened approach to the discussion of the acceptability of risk. Assessment of the course was done through pre and post surveys. Students reported high levels of satisfaction with the class discussions (4.6), their ability to consider multiple sides of an issue (4.73), and their engagement (4.7). On average, students’ understanding of ethical concepts increased from 2.1 to 4.7, and their ability to apply risk assessment tools to ethical problems increased from 1.6 to 4.4. References:  Lau, A.S. (2004) “Teaching Engineering Ethics to First-Year College Students,” Science and Engineering Ethics 10: 359-368.  Chiles, J.R. (2001) Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology. New York: Harper Collins.  Martin, M. W., Schinzinger, R. (2005) Ethics in Engineering. Fourth Edition, Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.  Budinger, T.F., Budinger, M.D. (2006) Ethics of Emerging Technologies: Scientific Facts and Moral Challenges. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Rossmann, T. (2015, June), Ethics for First-year STEM: A Risk Assessment Based Approach Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24023
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