Asee peer logo

Faculty Perceptions of Challenges to Educating Engineering and Computing Students About Ethics and Societal Impacts

Download Paper |

Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

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 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30510

Download Count

57

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Madeline Polmear University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Madeline Polmear is a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research interests include ethics education and societal impacts of engineering and technology.

visit author page

biography

Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where interdisciplinary students learn about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

visit author page

biography

Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Daniel W. Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate at Design Center (DC) Colorado in CU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Louisiana State University, an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in education, both from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of retention, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

visit author page

biography

Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5670-8938

visit author page

Chris Swan is an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. He has additional appointments in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts. His current engineering education research interests focus on community engagement, service-based projects and examining whether an entrepreneurial mindset can be used to further engineering education innovations. He also does research on the development of reuse strategies for waste materials.

visit author page

biography

Nathan E. Canney CYS Structural Engineers Inc.

visit author page

Dr. Canney conducts research focused on engineering education, specifically the development of social responsibility in engineering students. Other areas of interest include ethics, service learning, and sustainability education. Dr. Canney received bachelors degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Seattle University, a masters in Civil Engineering from Stanford University with an emphasis on structural engineering, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Canney taught in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Seattle University for four years and now works in private consulting.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Evaluating ethics and societal impacts (ESI) is an integral part of engineering in an increasingly globalized and technology dependent world. Despite the recognized importance of ESI in engineering education and its inclusion in accreditation criteria, students’ instruction on this topic has been viewed as deficient. This paper explores some of the challenges that confront educators who teach engineering and computing students about ESI. The first phase of this study involved online surveys distributed to faculty who teach engineering and computing students, publish ethics-related research, or advise or mentor engineering co-curricular activities. The surveys were designed to understand how faculty teach ESI including course type, pedagogical approach, and topic selection. At the end of the survey, 230 individuals among 1448 survey respondents expressed interest in participating in a follow-up interview. The research team contacted 52 individuals for interviews with selection based on representing a range of disciplinary, institutional, and pedagogical characteristics and identifying exemplary teaching practices. Between September 2016 and April 2017, 37 interviews were completed via Skype or phone and lasted 30-70 minutes. The interviews were conducted to gain insight into educators’ teaching practices and broader perspectives on ESI education. Content logs and transcripts of the interviews were created and were analyzed initially using emergent, thematic coding to identify the challenges that faculty experienced in teaching engineering and computing students about ESI. The participants were asked, “what challenges have you encountered in incorporating these topics?” and discussions of challenges also arose spontaneously throughout the semi-structured interviews. Preliminary analysis of the data indicated that barriers to effective instruction included lack of student interest, lack of faculty support, lack of faculty training, separation of technical and ethical/societal content, lack of curricular space, marginalization of “soft skills”, and constraints imposed by accreditation. Related to lack of student interest, one interviewee commented, “every time we try to teach ethics, it’s seen as an add-on, a bolt-on to the program…it’s outside of students’ purview of what engineering should be.” Another noted that teaching ethics is challenging when the institutional culture is antagonistic toward the inclusion of these topics and that “most faculty members are ignorant of and disinterested in what is going on in this course. A few may also view it with suspicion with regards to whether it serves any useful purpose.” A third interviewee remarked on technical/social barriers, “we see technical/social dualism as a barrier to rendering visible broader impacts both in and around the curriculum” and the dichotomy in their education reinforces students’ disconnect between engineering and ethics. Despite these obstacles, the interviewees expressed the importance of integrating ESI into engineering education and produced examples of teaching these topics in a range of settings with a variety of pedagogical approaches. Complete qualitative analysis, including frequency distributions of the codes, differences by discipline and course type, and inter-rater reliability, will be presented in the final paper.

Polmear, M., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Knight, D., & Swan, C., & Canney, N. E. (2018, June), Faculty Perceptions of Challenges to Educating Engineering and Computing Students About Ethics and Societal Impacts Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30510

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: © 2018 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