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Incorporation of Ethics and Societal Impact Issues into Senior Capstone Design Courses: Results of a National Survey

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Understanding Student Development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count

19

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28516

Download Count

56

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Paper Authors

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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 the ABET assessment coordinator for her department since 2008. Professor Bielefeldt is 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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Madeline Polmear University of Colorado, Boulder

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Madeline Polmear is a PhD student and research assistant in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is interested in studying how macroethics are taught to engineering and computing students.

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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 retention, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

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Nathan E. Canney Seattle University

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Dr. Canney teaches civil engineering at Seattle University. His research focuses 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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Christopher W. Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5670-8938

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Chris Swan is an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. He has additional appointments in the Department of Education, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts. His current engineering education research interests focus on learning through service-based projects and using an entrepreneurial mindset to further engineering education innovations. He also researches the development of reuse strategies for waste materials.

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Abstract

This paper provides an overview of the ways that ethics and societal impacts (ESI) are taught and assessed in senior capstone design courses by engineering faculty. A national survey was conducted in spring 2016 that asked engineering and computing faculty to report the types of courses where they incorporated ESI. Among the 1216 respondents who incorporated these topics into one or more courses, 486 (40%) indicated that they taught these topics in capstone design across a range of disciplines. The ESI topics taught by over half of the capstone design instructors included: professional practice issues, safety, engineering decisions in the face of uncertainty, and engineering codes of ethics. On average, individuals (n=212) reported using five different methods to teach students about ESI in their capstone courses, most commonly: engineering design projects (70%), in-class discussions (58%), case studies (58%), examples of professional scenarios (57%), and lectures (55%). This range of methods appears to involve the cognitive, affective, social, and psychomotor domains of learning, which has been proposed as providing an effective way to improve ethical reasoning. For assessment of ESI learning, an average of two methods were used per course with a maximum of 8 methods reported; 10% did not assess ESI knowledge. The most commonly used assessment methods were: group-based written assignments (47%), individual reflections (33%), and individual homework assignments graded with a rubric (31%). Instructor satisfaction with the ability to assess the outcomes of societal context and ethics instruction was weakly correlated with the number of assessment methods used (correl. coeff. 0.25). Among all survey respondents 62% believed that undergraduate students in their program learned about ESI via capstone design, the most commonly identified course type. The results of this study indicate that ethical and societal impact issues can be readily incorporated into capstone design courses in any discipline, and provides examples of effective teaching and assessment methods.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Polmear, M., & Knight, D., & Canney, N. E., & Swan, C. W. (2017, June), Incorporation of Ethics and Societal Impact Issues into Senior Capstone Design Courses: Results of a National Survey Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28516

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