June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.540.1 - 24.540.10
Ethics for the “Me” Generation – How “Millennial” Engineering Students View Ethical Responsibility in the Engineering ProfessionCommon observations about the millennial generation include a tendency to be self-centered, asense of entitlement, a fondness for networking in a variety of forms, and a demand that value bearticulated in ways that make sense to them, and without any ambiguity. On the positive side,this generation is noted for its open-mindedness, inclusivity, enthusiasm and optimism for work,adaptability and a desire to act in an ethical manner. Knowing that our current population ofundergraduate engineering students is part of the “millennial generation”, we wondered whetherthe social and cultural values ascribed to this generation would be reflected in theirunderstanding of professional responsibility and ethics in the practice of engineering.As a part of a one-semester engineering design course at a public university in the westernUnited States, we conduct a workshop in engineering ethics with a discussion of the ABET Codeof Ethics for Engineers, followed by a case study of an ethical dilemma in an industrialworkplace. During the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters we included an assessment surveyof the workshop content and delivery, between one week and two weeks later, to determine howwell the students understood the meaning of ethical responsibility and could identify appropriateways to respond when ethically difficult decisions need to be made in the engineering workplace.The focus of this study is on student responses to an open-ended question in the survey whichasked students to list two primary behaviors or actions that engineers must follow whenperforming their professional duties. Across the two samples, the most popular responses relatedideas of integrity, safety, honesty, and improving human welfare/society. While the workshopleaders emphasized that the study of ethics involves personal values or morals as applied todealing with other people, it is notable that responses involving society were not the mostfrequent among either group. This might indicate that these students, as members of themillennial generation, either view morals or values on a primarily personal level, or just do nothave the experience, yet, to realize that interpersonal relations and actions are influenced byfundamental values and knowledge of how to do the “right” thing in a situation where multiplesolutions or actions are possible, and where two or more ethical principles may be in conflict.
Van Tyne, N. C., & Brunhart-Lupo, M. (2014, June), Ethics for the "Me" Generation - How "Millennial" Engineering Students View Ethical Responsibility in the Engineering Profession Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20431
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