June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.799.1 - 22.799.10
Impact of Different Curricular Approaches to Ethics Education on Development of Ethical Reasoning As engineers enter the modern workplace, they must not only be aware of the existingethical standards required to become a professional engineer, but they must also be prepared toreason through ethical problems and act appropriately in their everyday work. However, recentresearch has shown that the curricular approaches typically used to develop these skills inengineering undergraduates – notably case studies and emphasis on ethical codes – have alimited impact on students’ ability to address ethical issues. Therefore, in this study we evaluatea number of different curricular approaches to ethics education (e.g. roleplaying activities,games, and films) that could be used to prepare students for ethical issues and assess theirimpacts on students’ development of ethical reasoning. Astin’s Input-Environment-Outcome (IEO) model views student outcomes (such asethical development) as the product of the interaction of inputs (such as student characteristicsand prior experiences) and environmental stimuli (such as curricular and cocurricularexperiences and institutional culture); in this study, we apply Astin’s IEO model to developmentof ethical reasoning. We use the undergraduate engineering curriculum as the “environment,”and study several other input factors as we address the following research questions: Do differentcurricular approaches to ethics education have differential impacts on undergraduate students’ethical reasoning ability? How do the impacts of these curricula differ for students acrossacademic class-years? We analyzed data collected as part of our Survey of Engineering Ethical Developmentconducted at 18 institutions across the U.S. These institutions were selected to provide a widerange of institution size, program concentration, and geographic region. Amongst other things,the survey included items assessing students’ demographics and background characteristics, theircurricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular experiences, and their level of ethical reasoning (asmeasured by the Defining Issues Test-2 (DIT-2)). Here we assess the differential impact of the curricular approaches to ethics educationacross students’ undergraduate experiences. Preliminary results indicate that some curricularapproaches are common at many of the institutions in our sample (e.g., presentation by aprofessor in an introductory engineering course), while others are more institution-specific.Further, students’ ethical reasoning ability varies both across institutions and within institutionsby class-year, possibly because of the different types of ethics education to which students havebeen exposed. In additional analysis for the final paper, we will apply indicator variables aspredictors (representing exposure to different curricular approaches), along with severalcovariates, to explain the differences in the development of ethical reasoning by class year. Thiswill allow us to identify curricular approaches to ethics education that have the greatest impacton students’ ethical reasoning ability at different points during their education.
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