Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
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
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