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Ethnography in Engineering Ethics Education: A Pedagogy for Transformational Listening

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Conference

2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Graduate Ethics Education & Professional Codes

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count

27

Page Numbers

24.542.1 - 24.542.27

DOI

10.18260/1-2--20433

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/20433

Download Count

85

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Paper Authors

biography

Yanna Lambrinidou Virginia Tech

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Yanna Lambrinidou is a medical ethnographer and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Virginia Tech. For the past 7 years, she has conducted research on the historic 2001-2004 Washington, DC lead-in-drinking-water contamination. This work exposed wrongdoing and unethical behavior on the part of local and federal government agencies. In 2010, Dr. Lambrinidou co-conceived the graduate level engineering ethics course "Engineering Ethics and the Public." She is co-PI on a National Science Foundation (NSF) research and education project developing an ethnographic approach to engineering ethics education.

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William Joseph Rhoads Virginia Tech

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William Rhoads is a PhD student in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech working with Dr. Marc Edwards and Dr. Amy Pruden. His research focuses on various aspects of opportunistic pathogens in potable and hot water plumbing systems and implications of green buildings on public health. William is currently the vice-president of a joint American Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation graduate student group and is the recipient of the Via Doctoral Fellowship.

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Siddhartha Roy Virginia Tech

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Siddhartha Roy is a PhD student in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on factors leading to failures in drinking water infrastructures; in particular, erosion corrosion of copper pipes in hot water systems. His advisor is Dr. Marc Edwards.

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Erin Heaney Clean Air: Organizing for Health and Justice

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Erin Heaney has led the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) since 2009. She ran the grassroots campaign against Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC) that resulted in a raid of the plant, the federal indictment of the company’s environmental control manager, a consent order with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the reduction of benzene emissions by 86% in the Town of Tonawanda. Since then, the CACWNY has expanded to organize in several marginalized, Western New York neighborhoods around environmental health and justice issues.

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Glenn Andrew Ratajczak Clean Air Coalition of Western New York

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Glenn Ratajczak is a lifelong resident of the Town of Tonawanda. He was a founding board member of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) and has served as the organization’s Vice President. Currently, Glenn is a member of the Clean Air Coalition’s “Air Tech Team,” which provides scientific support to the organization. He is employed in the heart of Tonawanda’s industrial center as Crew Chief of the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA) water treatment plant. Glenn is also a part-time student at the University at Buffalo where he is a senior in the Civil Engineering Department. Glenn was awarded the “Unsung Hero Award” from the CACWNY in 2012.

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Jennifer Holly Ratajczak Clean Air Coalition of Western New York

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Jennifer Ratajczak is a lifelong resident of the Town of Tonawanda. In 2006, at the age of 40, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), a manageable but incurable cancer. After learning that her disease was likely to be environmentally triggered by benzene exposure, Jen began a quest to find the source of the contamination. Her journey confirmed extraordinarily high levels of benzene in Tonawanda’s air and led Jen to dedicate her life’s work to the health and wellbeing of the people of Tonawanda. Jen served as a founding board member of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY). Jen was the first recipient of the organization’s “Unsung Hero Award” in 2010. She currently remains an active member of the CACWNY and serves as an advocate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Western New York. Jen also serves as Chair of the Re-Tree Tonawanda program. Jen holds an MS in Multidisciplinary Studies from Buffalo State College with a concentration in the management of adult learning and development.

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Abstract

Ethnography in Engineering Ethics Education: A Pedagogy for Transformational ListeningIn the engineering literature, listening is increasingly embraced as an essentialprofessional skill. Calls for listening appear in official guidelines for improvedcompetencies among engineers of the 21st century, as well as in writings advocating“human-centered” design, culturally-appropriate initiatives, and the promotion of socialand environmental justice. Despite the value placed on listening, its instruction inengineering education is rare.This paper extends the importance of listening to all areas of engineering research andpractice. It proposes that listening to the diverse voices of communities affected byengineering decisions, discoveries, and products is crucial for research integrity andmorally sound applications of engineering expertise. More importantly, it contends thatlistening can facilitate transformational engagement between engineers and the public bya) challenging stereotypes on both sides, b) foregrounding the technical and moralrelevance of diverse knowledges, c) exposing power relations between engineering,industry, and the state, and d) replacing conventional relationships of inequality anddistrust with partnerships that generate meaningful and effective innovations andsolutions.The pedagogy for transformational listening this paper features lies at the heart of aNational Science Foundation (NSF)-funded graduate engineering ethics course and willinform an online teaching module. The goal is for students to experience the cognitiveleap that trained listening can facilitate – moving from a stance of ignorance, confusion,and even outright disagreement concerning an unfamiliar position, to a stance of clarityand appreciation for reasoning that can underlie marginalized or misunderstoodperspectives. Three exercises are used, the first two as preparation for the third. Eachbuilds on the previous and increases in complexity and involvement. Exercise 1 draws onstudents’ personal experiences to delineate what effective listening looks and feels like,both for speakers and listeners. Exercise 2 centers on an ethnographic interview of afriend/relative who holds a belief or engages in a practice the student disapproves.Exercise 3, the apex of the training, requires sustained research of an unfoldingengineering controversy. It culminates in an ethnographic interview of a publicstakeholder whose voice is under- or misrepresented in official depictions of the case.To illustrate the method, the paper will focus on a partnership between the class and agrassroots environmental health organization, forged to bring together students andcommunity members fighting a highly publicized case of environmental contamination.The exercise involved extensive student research of the case, one classroom visit fromstaff and members of the organization, and one-on-one student interviews with localstakeholders. Learning outcomes included a) first-hand appreciation of the technical andmoral value of marginalized voices (expert and non-expert alike), b) new understandingsof the case from knowledge, data, and experiences excluded from the official record, andc) reassessment of engineering “best practices” from public perspectives. Strengths andlimitations of the approach will be explored through six lenses: that of the courseinstructor, two graduate students, and the director and two members of the partneringorganization.In closing, the paper will discuss the potential of this pedagogy to transform therelationship between engineers and the public, and thus support morally-sound generationand application of engineering knowledge.

Lambrinidou, Y., & Rhoads, W. J., & Roy, S., & Heaney, E., & Ratajczak, G. A., & Ratajczak, J. H. (2014, June), Ethnography in Engineering Ethics Education: A Pedagogy for Transformational Listening Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20433

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