Asee peer logo

Ethics, Invention And Design: Creating Cross Disciplinary Collaborations

Download Paper |


1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Conference Session

Integrated Humanities and Social Sciences Programs (3661)

Tagged Division

Liberal Education (LED)

Page Count


Page Numbers

3.266.1 - 3.266.4

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Michael E. Gorman

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3661

Ethics, Invention and Design: Creating Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations

Michael E. Gorman Technology, Culture & Communications and Systems Engineering University of Virginia

When people ask me what I teach, a one sentence answer won’t suffice. A psychologist should be teaching psychology courses. Instead, I have to explain that I cover topics like invention and design, engineering ethics and communications. Furthermore, I do research on scientific and technological thinking, which is not one of the recognized specialties in psychology--though a colleague and I are trying to change that (Feist & Gorman, In Press).

This paper is really the story of how I came to this unusual position--and why I like it. As an undergraduate psychology major, I spent more time on an independent study of scientific thought than on my honors thesis in psychology. In graduate school, I combined social, cognitive, and history of psychology, and also took courses on advanced non-fiction writing. The really interesting questions always seemed to slip between disciplines.

My first job was at Michigan Technological University, an engineering school which wanted a psychologist who could teach writing. One of my many responsibilities was team-teaching a course with W. Bernard Carlson, a historian of technology. He and I wrote a grant proposal to collaborate on a study of the invention of the telephone.

The key to transcending disciplinary boundaries is collaboration (Okada & Simon, 1997). I provided psychological analyses of scientific problem-solving: Bernie added a deep knowledge of how to do archival research in history of technology, and where the sources were. The grant was funded after Bern moved to the University of Virginia, and I followed him.

A Michigan Tech, I was split between three departments--humanities, social sciences and education. This sounds like an ideal, transdisciplinary situation, but in fact, the politics of funding led the three departments to pull in different directions. In particular, they and I struggled over where psychology should have its home.

At the University of Virginia, I came into what was then the Humanities Division (see paper by Ingrid Soudek). Whereas my departments at Michigan Tech were outside of Engineering and were expected to develop their own majors and graduate programs, the Division was within the Engineering School and was expected to focus on engineering education. The structure of the Division encouraged cooperation across disciplines (see paper by Ingrid Soudek).

My work with Bernie resulted in several scholarly publications (Carlson & Gorman, 1990; Gorman, 1990; Gorman, Mehalik, Carlson, & Oblon, 1993). When we showed one or two to a sympathetic Dean, he challenged us to show how some of this work would benefit engineering students. Fair enough. I created a rough design for an extended invention module based on the telephone and ran it by quite a few people, who helped me re-shape it.

Gorman, M. E. (1998, June), Ethics, Invention And Design: Creating Cross Disciplinary Collaborations Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1998 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015