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Hidden Curriculum Perspective on the Importance of Ethics and Societal Impacts in Engineering Education

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count

20

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/32887

Download Count

50

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Paper Authors

biography

Madeline Polmear University of Colorado Boulder

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Madeline Polmear is a PhD candidate 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 K-12, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development, outreach and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

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

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Chris Swan is Dean of Undergraduate Education for the School of Engineering and 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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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.

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Abstract

Learning in higher education occurs in many forms, through the official written lessons in the curriculum, the informal conversations and interactions in academic settings, and the tacit messages and attitudes of the organization and culture, from either internal or external sources. The last component, termed the hidden curriculum, pertains to perspectives and processes that are both outside of, and rooted in, the formal curriculum. The hidden curriculum inadvertently conveys to students what is important in the educational community. This paper will employ a hidden curriculum perspective to explore the role and value of ethics and societal impacts (ESI) in engineering education. ABET mandates the inclusion of ethical responsibility and societal contexts in the undergraduate curriculum of accredited programs. However, individual departments and educators have considerable autonomy in determining how and where these topics are covered. Often included in first-year, capstone design, and ethics-focused courses, ESI can appear divorced from the technical core of the engineering curriculum. The inclusion or absence of ESI in different curricular settings may send certain messages to engineering students about its importance and relevance. Furthermore, constraining ethics to a microethical view on codes and personal responsibilities obstructs the broader macroethical responsibilities such as social justice and sustainability. Accepted practices and norms in engineering, such as the dominance of rationality over emotion, separation between social and technical considerations, and formation of professional identity, can serve to stifle ESI education through hidden curriculum. As part of a larger study on the ESI education of undergraduate and graduate students, this paper explores ESI through a hidden curriculum lens using a mixed-methods approach. Individuals who teach engineering and computing students were invited to participate in a survey where they reported their own ESI education practices and their perceptions of the ESI education of students in their program. Respondents were asked in which settings they believed undergraduate students learned about ESI in their program. The results indicated cases or settings in which ESI is invisible or is purposefully excluded. For example, despite the clear connection between engineering design and societal considerations, 37% reported that ESI was not taught in capstone design in their program. In addition, if few or no engineering instructors teach particular ESI topics, this could communicate to students that these may not be legitimate considerations in engineering. Follow-up interviews were conducted with select survey participants to learn more about their ESI practices and perspectives. The interviews provided insights into the perceived boundary conditions of engineering education and where ESI fits in that paradigm. By understanding if and where ESI is taught in engineering, this paper aims to create awareness of the influences of hidden curriculum and how making these factors visible can support the thoughtful and effective integration of ESI into the engineering curriculum.

Polmear, M., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Knight, D., & Swan, C., & Canney, N. E. (2019, June), Hidden Curriculum Perspective on the Importance of Ethics and Societal Impacts in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/32887

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