Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
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
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