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Faculty Perceptions of the Most Effective Settings and Approaches for Educating Engineering and Computing Students About Ethics and Societal Impacts

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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

Learning Outcomes and Pedagogical Strategies: Problems of Alignment

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count

21

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30511

Download Count

28

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Paper Authors

biography

Madeline Polmear University of Colorado, Boulder

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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 the societal impacts of engineering and technology.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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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.

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Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

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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.

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Nathan E. Canney CYS Structural Engineers Inc.

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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.

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

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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.

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Abstract

Teaching students about ethical responsibilities and the societal impacts of engineering (ESI) is an important part of undergraduate education. Despite the inclusion of these topics in accreditation criteria, professional codes of ethics, and engineering bodies of knowledge, there is little consensus on the most effective approach to educating students about ESI. This study began with an online survey in spring 2016 to better understand the national landscape of ethics education and explore existing teaching practices. The survey was distributed to educators who teach engineering and computing students, mentor or advise co-curricular activities, or publish ethics-related research. Of the 1448 survey respondents, 230 expressed interest in participating in the next phase of the study: interviews regarding ESI teaching practices and perspectives. Between September 2016 and April 2017, 52 educators were contacted for interviews and 37 interviews were completed. The interviews were designed to gain insight into the courses or co-curricular activities in which the educators teach about ESI. The semi-structured interviews explored the teaching approaches used, including topic selection, pedagogy, and assessment, as well as motivating factors in the course design, perceptions of student impacts, and the overall institutional culture at the school in regards to ESI education. The interviewees represented a variety of backgrounds: 26 with engineering degrees, seven with non-engineering degrees including anthropology, ethics, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and education, and four with both engineering and non-engineering degrees of education, public policy, journalism, and business. The interviewees taught at different types of institutions: public (n=23), private secular (n=5), private religiously affiliated (n=7), and international (n=2). The interviewees discussed their integration of ESI into a variety of course types: standalone ethics courses (n=8), professional issues courses (n=4), service-focused courses and activities (n=5), capstone design (n=4), first-year introductory courses (n=4), required engineering courses (n=5), and elective technical engineering courses (n=5). The conversations illuminated a range of perspectives regarding the most effective ways to educate engineering and computing students about ESI. Emergent, thematic coding of the interview data revealed diverging opinions on whether the topics should be taught in curricular or co-curricular settings, in required or elective courses, by engineering or non-engineering faculty, and in standalone ethics courses, integrated into technical courses, or across the curriculum. For example, one engineering professor advocated for engineers teaching ESI and commented, “some aspects of the philosophy department are about as far as you wanted to get from teaching students about ethical responsibility to the public”. Conversely, a philosopher remarked, “I’ve been doing ethics a very long time compared to my engineering colleagues” and that “shared expertise is the most powerful way to engage and teach.” Despite the varying opinions on settings and approaches, all of the interviewees expressed the importance of integrating ESI into engineering education to foster a sense of ethical awareness and responsibility in students. The final paper will discuss the thematic codes including the frequency distributions, differences by demographics, and inter-rater reliability.

Polmear, M., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Knight, D., & Canney, N. E., & Swan, C. (2018, June), Faculty Perceptions of the Most Effective Settings and Approaches for 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/30511

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