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How are Engineering Ethics Integrated into High School STEM Education in Colorado? (Fundamental)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 14

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Jake Walker Lewis

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Graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and a master's degree in civil engineering. Was involved with undergraduate research regarding ethics in engineering education, presented work in the form of a poster at the 2018 Zone IV ASEE Conference. Defended and published master's thesis examining if/how ethics are being introduced in K12 STEM education in November 2019. Co-authored paper entitled "Educating Civil Engineering Students about Ethics and Societal Impacts via Cocurricular Activities." This paper was recognized by the Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice as an Editor's Choice. Currently working with Dr. Angela Bielefeldt as a research assistant. Preparing to submit four papers regarding ethics in engineering education as co-author at the 2021 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition.

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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) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. 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 students learned 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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Engineering education continues to become more prominent in high schools, catalyzed in part by Project Lead the Way and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). An important topic within engineering is ethics, including macroethical issues such as the environmental and societal impacts of engineering and technology. This research therefore examined if and how engineering ethics are being implemented in high school STEM education, seeking to understand teacher practices and perspectives. While exploring these perspectives, an emergent goal of the research became to determine whether teacher’s beliefs about their incorporation of ethics in their STEM-based courses matched the evidence they provided. This qualitative research was conducted by interviewing 14 high school STEM teachers in Colorado. The teachers represented multiple subjects (engineering, computer science, science, and math), school districts, public and private schools, as well as religious and nonsectarian institutions. Five of the teachers had bachelor’s degrees in engineering disciplines, and some also had engineering work experience in industry. The study found that 13 of the 14 teachers integrated engineering ethical issues. However, the majority of the teacher interviewees viewed environmental and societal impacts as being different from ethics, revealing confusion about macroethics. Interestingly, among the 7 teachers whose focus was engineering education, 3 did not believe that they integrated engineering ethics and/or environmental/societal impacts into their teaching, while all of the 7 non-engineering STEM teachers believed that they integrated ethics and/or societal/environmental issues in their teaching. These results on STEM teaching practices in high school provide insights into the variable backgrounds and attitudes that incoming college students might have regarding the importance (or lack of importance) of ethical issues in engineering.

Lewis, J. W., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2021, July), How are Engineering Ethics Integrated into High School STEM Education in Colorado? (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37249

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