June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.674.1 - 24.674.21
ASEE 2014: Ethics Division How Engineering Students view Dilemmas of Macroethics: Links between Depth of Knowledge and Ethical LiteracyThe need to develop ethical literacy among engineering students goes well beyondcommunicating a basic knowledge of professional ethics codes. One way of looking at andassessing a student’s ability to consider and evaluate ethical issues is by assessing the student’swriting regarding challenging topics, both in microethics and macroethics. In the context oftechnical writing, Cook (2002) defines two layers of literacy that are involved in consideringethics. Ethical Literacy reflects both knowledge of professional ethical standards (e.g., codes ofethics), as well as an ability to consider all stakeholders involved. At a more advanced level,Critical Literacy reflects “an ability to recognize and consider ideological stances and powerstructures and the willingness to take action to assist those in need” (Cook 2002).We have used Cook’s layered literacies framework to create a rubric for assessing studentwriting on macroethics dilemmas. We have applied this rubric to over 150 writing samplesfrom introductory engineering classes at two higher education institutions in the United States,the first a large public teaching university in the midwest and the second a large public researchuniversity in the pacific northwest. Specifically, students were asked to read a journal article onwaste electronics and recycling in China and India, then write a reflection paper that (a) speaksto the most important negative impacts of waste electronics on ecosystems and public health,and (b) provides a personal opinion on what the student believes is the engineer’s responsibilityin limiting the impact of improper disposal of consumer electronics. Assessments of ethicaland critical literacy in these writing samples were then compared with the depth of knowledgeexpressed in each paper where depth of global knowledge was evaluated using the modelprovided by Webb (2005) which identifies four increasingly sophisticated levels of knowledge:(1) recall (recall elements and details of events), (2) skill/concept (identify and summarize themajor events in a narrative), (3) strategic thinking (support ideas with details and examples),and (4) extended thinking (analyze the events and report solutions).Preliminary analyses indicate that depth of knowledge, specifically expressed in the richness ofdetails and facts underlying the global issue of waste electronics and recycling, bears a strongassociation with ethical literacy. In other words, it appears that students who are able,motivated, or both to gather more complex suites of detailed facts to support their ethicalarguments are also able to express more advanced ethical literacy in issues of macroethics.These results suggest that by providing students with more structure for and access to gatheringand synthesizing facts relevant to macroethics issues, instructors can more readily advance theethical literacy expressed by these students.Cook, K. C. (2002). Layered literacies: A theoretical frame for technical communication pedagogy. Technical Communication Quarterly, 11(1), 5-29.Webb, N. L., Alt, M., Ely, R., & Vesperman, B. (2005). Web alignment tool: Training manual. Wisconsin Center of Educational Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2 Feb. 2006. .
Wilson, D., & Kim, M. J., & Bates, R. A., & Burpee, E. (2014, June), How Engineering Students View Dilemmas of Macroethics: Links between Depth of Knowledge and Ethical Literacy Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20565
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