June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.749.1 - 15.749.14
Institutional Obstacles to Integrating Ethics into the Curriculum and Strategies for Overcoming Them
Abstract Several national reports emphasize the importance of providing undergraduate engineering students with effective ethics education, and most engineering faculty and administrators agree that ethics is an important aspect of engineering undergraduate education. However, there are many obstacles to integrating ethics into the curriculum. This study investigated these obstacles at 18 diverse institutions and found five common themes: 1) the curriculum is already full, and there is little room for ethics education, 2) faculty lack adequate training for teaching ethics 3) there are too few incentives to incorporate ethics into the curriculum, 4) policies about academic dishonesty are inconsistent, and 5) institutional growth is taxing existing resources. This study concludes with recommendations for overcoming these obstacles.
Introduction Recent, high profile cases such as the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis, levee failures in New Orleans, and steering and braking failures in Toyota automobiles have elevated ethics in engineering to national and international attention. These cases stress the significance of ethical responsibility in the engineering profession and emphasize the need to educate engineering students about their professional and ethical obligations.
Several national reports emphasize the importance of providing undergraduate engineering students with effective ethics education. Reports from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) conclude engineers need to be trained to recognize their professional responsibilities and the ethical implications of their work12,13. In addition, most engineering faculty and administrators agree that ethics is an important aspect of engineering undergraduate education. In fact, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) includes ethical and professional responsibility as one of its program objectives for accreditation of engineering programs5, and the professional codes for most national engineering societies include tenets related to ethical responsibility as well1,14.
Despite the compelling evidence and accreditation requirements to include ethics in engineering education, many engineering programs struggle to incorporate ethics into the curriculum. These difficulties stem from both institutional and personal contexts, but all have an impact on the ethics curriculum and education of engineering undergraduates. Because of the importance of developing ethical engineers, it is critical to identify these obstacles so they can be addressed by engineering programs. This study investigates these obstacles and suggests ways to overcome them.
Literature Review The importance of developing ethical engineers highlights the need to integrate ethics into engineering education. Harris, Davis, Pritchard, and Rabins7 identify nine purposes of engineering education which Newberry15 classifies into three categories: particular knowledge, intellectual engagement, and emotional engagement. Newberry argues that particular knowledge,
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