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Integrating Ethical Considerations In Design

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Socio-Technical Issues in Engineering

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Megan Kenny Feister Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Megan is a postdoctoral researcher in EPICS at Purdue University with a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication from the Brian Lamb School of Communication from Purdue University. Her research focuses on design, organizational identity, identification and socialization, team communication, innovation, and technology. She is currently working on an NSF grant examining ethical reasoning and decision-making in engineering project teams, and examining the relationship between teams and individuals in engineering design from a social constructionist and social network perspective.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests broadly include the professional formation of engineers and diversity and inclusion in engineering, with specific interests in human-centered design, engineering ethics, leadership, service-learning, assistive-technology, and accessibility.

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Patrice Marie Buzzanell Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Patrice M. Buzzanell is a Distinguished Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the School of Engineering Education (courtesy) at Purdue University. She is the Butler Chair and Director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence. Editor of three books and author of over 170 journal articles and chapters, her research centers on the intersections of career, gender communication, leadership, and resilience. Fellow and past president of the International Communication Association, she has received numerous awards for her research, teaching/mentoring, and engagement. She is working on Purdue-ADVANCE initiatives for institutional change, the Transforming Lives Building Global Communities (TLBGC) team in Ghana through EPICS, and individual engineering ethical development and team ethical climate scales as well as everyday negotiations of ethics in design through NSF funding as Co-PI. [Email:]

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David H. Torres Purdue University

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David is a second year doctoral student in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University pursuing a PhD in Organizational Communication with a minor in data analysis and research methodology. His research interests reside at the intersection of organizational communication, organizational ethics, social network analysis, identity and identification, and leadership development.

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Ethical training of engineers is a central concern to engineering educators, future employers, and the governing bodies of the field. Engineering and design work involve complex social processes and inherently ethical decision-making activities. Ethics in engineering project teams has long been a focus of scholarly attention and engineering practice as well as part of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology criteria for engineering and technology (ABET, 2013). Engineering’s complexities raise important questions not only about how engineers make ethical decisions and develop ethical team climates, but also how ethics is handled distinctly within the project-based team context.

While there is still much more to learn about this, our study provides some insights. We used a discursive approach to explore the team-based context of design work in multidisciplinary project-based teams in an engineering education context. We probed how ethics are interwoven throughout the design process. Our findings highlight social, interaction-based team work and ethical decision-making in design work. This study offers both successes and challenges with the development of ethical engineers, as well as practical implications for engineering educators trying to develop curriculum that encourages students’ ethical development. Our findings suggest that while students still struggled to explicitly identify ethics and articulate its role in their day-to-day design work, a human-centered approach to design oriented them toward ethical considerations, motives, and decisions. Additionally, students linked ethical concerns to specific interaction with users in ways that constrained identification and intentional integration of ethical considerations in day-to-day or more technical aspects of their design work. This paper offers some suggestions for more intentional integration of ethical orientations for engineering design students, and considerations for programs seeking to develop ethical engineers.

Kenny Feister, M., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Torres, D. H. (2016, June), Integrating Ethical Considerations In Design Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25804

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