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Guidelines for Constructing Expert Witness Role-plays for Engineering Ethics

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.829.1 - 26.829.10



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Paper Authors


Bradley J. Brummel University of Tulsa

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Dr. Brummel is an Associate Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at The University of Tulsa. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.He conducts research on training and development and individual differences in the workplace. He also investigates the use of role play simulations for teaching ethics.

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Jeremy S. Daily P.E. University of Tulsa

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Jason T Stauth Dartmouth College

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Guidelines for Constructing Expert Witness Role Plays for Engineering EthicsExpert witness role plays are interactive simulations where engineering students act as expertwitnesses in mock litigation. This experience gives students an opportunity to experience realworld ethical dilemmas and engage in ethical decision making and actions while using thetechnical rigor of higher level engineering classes. Previous role play scenarios have focused ontraffic crash reconstructions where students use concepts from engineering dynamics todetermine specific answers to how an event occurred. The student was then then “hired” by a lawstudent role-playing an attorney and deposed to render their opinion. Provided the students aretechnically competent, the goal of the exercise is for the engineering student expert to experiencethe temptation associated with advocating for one side of a legal dispute. Previous research hasshown that students find these experiences to be challenging and worthwhile. However, to dateonly one expert witness role play has been constructed and tested. To be more broadly impactful,the efficacy of this approach to engineering ethics education needs to be assessed moresystematically and other educators need to be able to adapt the approach to their intuitions andareas of expertise.The design of the expert witness role play allows educators to focus on three types of learningobjectives: 1) technical skills, 2) professionalism, and 3) ethics. These objectives are co-dependent in the successful navigation of expert witness testimony. An engineering ethicalframework depends on technical skill and an awareness of the distinguishing attributes of theengineering profession. Educators can craft their version of the role play with different emphasison each of these learning objectives, yet all aspects should be addressed.The purpose of this paper is to explain how to implement the expert witness role play pedagogy.Lessons learned from previous implementations will be used to define a set of guidelines anddecision points for crafting a role play that accomplishes the learning objectives of a specificinstructor and can be completed within the resource constraints of that instructor. Theseguidelines will be implemented at a different institution, in different engineering discipline, usinga newly developed scenario, and adapted to the constraints of the course in which it will be used.As such, the generalized implementation of the expert witness role play pedagogy will be testedand refined. Specifically, the experiences and implementation of the traffic crash reconstructionexpert witness role play in a department of Mechanical Engineering will provide the basis fortranslation of the pedagogy to a different School of Engineering. In the new exercise issues inrenewable energy generation and development motivate an expert witness litigation exercisecentered on a range of benefits an externalities associated with large-scale photovoltaic (PV)development. Recommendations and implementation improvements are discussed.

Brummel, B. J., & Daily, J. S., & Stauth, J. T. (2015, June), Guidelines for Constructing Expert Witness Role-plays for Engineering Ethics Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24166

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