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How Engineering Students Think About the Roles and Responsibilities of Engineers with Respect to Broader Social and Global Impact of Engineering and Technology

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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 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.855.1 - 26.855.14



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Paper Authors


Ayush Gupta University of Maryland, College Park

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Ayush Gupta is Research Assistant Professor in Physics and Keystone Instructor in the A. J. Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Broadly speaking he is interested in modeling learning and reasoning processes. In particular, he is attracted to fine-grained analysis of video data both from a micro-genetic learning analysis methodology (drawing on knowledge in pieces) as well as interaction analysis methodology. He has been working on how learners' emotions are coupled with their conceptual and epistemological reasoning. He is also interested in developing models of the dynamics of categorizations (ontological) underlying students' reasoning in physics. Lately, he has been interested in engineering design thinking, how engineering students come to understand and practice design.

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Andrew Elby University of Maryland, College Park

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My work focuses on student and teacher epistemologies and how they couple to other cognitive machinery and help to drive behavior in learning environments. My academic training was in Physics and Philosophy before I turned to science (particularly physics) education research. More recently, I have started exploring engineering students' entangled identities and epistemologies.

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Thomas M. Philip University of California Los Angeles

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Thomas M. Philip is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles.

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How engineering students think about the roles and responsibilities of engineers with respect to broader social and global impact of engineering and technology  As part of their jobs, professional engineers engage in ethical, environmental, social, and economic negotiations with other engineers, with managers, and with the public; and they need to understand the social impact of new technologies in a global context (Jonassen, Strobel, and Lee, 2006; Herkert, 2002). Responding to this need, engineering programs increasingly offer engineering ethics education (Haws, 2001; Herkert, 2002). However, courses in ethics engineering as well as research on students’ developing sense of engineering ethics often emphasize the micro­ethics of research, mentoring, and publications. In comparison, research is limited on how future engineers understand the social, ethical, environmental, economic, and political impact of their scientific and technological contributions (Bucciarelli, 2008).  In this manuscript, we present 3 case­study accounts of how future engineers think about an engineer’s responsibility towards the social and global impact of their contribution. The case studies draw from video­taped semi­structured interviews. We analyze the content of participants’ responses to the interview prompts, loosely drawing on microgenetic learning analysis (Parnafes and diSessa, 2013) which emphasizes context­dependence of ideas and has a commitment to teasing apart fine shades in the meaning of an utterance. We also draw on tools of interaction analysis (Jordan and Henderson, 1995) to attend to participants’ gestures, posture, and para­verbal aspects of speech (such as tone, prosody, register, etc.). Our case­study analysis suggests that how some engineering students construe an engineer’s responsibility depends on the particular issue at hand (weaponized drones versus malfunctioning bridges, for example), on their sense of self as a future engineer, views about what is engineering, sense of nationality, emotions, empathy, and ideologies/narratives available to them through participation in the world at large. We argue that students’ views towards macro­ethics of engineering are sensitive to context, and the need for further research on how identity, epistemology, and emotions are entangled with an engineers’ ethical view.  Works Cited Bucciarelli, L. L. "Ethics and Engineering Education." European Journal of Engineering Education  33.2 (2008): 141­49. Print. Haws, David R. "Ethics Instruction in Engineering Education: A (Mini) Meta­Analysis." Journal of  Engineering Education 90.2 (2001): 223­29. Print. Herkert, J.r. "Guest Editors' Introduction ­ Engineering Ethics: Continuing and Emerging Issues. II.  Education." IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 20.4 (2002): 4­5. Print. Jonassen, David, Johannes Strobel, and Chwee Beng Lee. "Everyday Problem Solving in Engineering:  Lessons for Engineering Educators." Journal of Engineering Education 95.2 (2006): 139­51.  Print. Jordan, Brigitte, and Austin Henderson. "Interaction Analysis: Foundations and Practice." Journal of  the Learning Sciences 4.1 (1995): 39­103. Print. Parnafes, Orit, and Andrea A. Disessa. "Microgenetic Learning Analysis: A Methodology for Studying  Knowledge in Transition." Human Development 56.1 (2013): 5­37. Print. 

Gupta, A., & Elby, A., & Philip, T. M. (2015, June), How Engineering Students Think About the Roles and Responsibilities of Engineers with Respect to Broader Social and Global Impact of Engineering and Technology Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24192

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