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Integrating Ethics Curriculum Within A Service Learning Design Context

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Novel Methods in Engineering Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.763.1 - 15.763.15



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Paper Authors


Craig Titus Purdue University

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Craig Titus is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Purdue University and a graduate assistant for the EPICS Program, participating in the curriculum development and the research teams.

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Carla Zoltowski Purdue University

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CARLA B. ZOLTOWSKI is Education Administrator of the EPICS Program at Purdue
University. She received her BSEE and MSEE from Purdue University, and is a PhD Candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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William Oakes Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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William Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and an Associate Professor and a founding faculty member of the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University with courtesy appointments in Mechanical Engineering and of Curriculum and Instruction. He is a co-recipient the NEA’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, the Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning; the NSPE’s Educational Excellence Award.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Designing Ethics Curriculum: Teaching and Assessing Moral Decision Making in a Service- Learning Design Course The doer alone learneth. Friedrich Nietzsche


Though much has been said about what might constitute “engineering ethics”—or even what might constitute “ethics,” for that matter—and perhaps more has been said about how best to teach ethics across the curriculum, much of therelevant literatureis still markedly academic and gives inadequate treatment toapplied or service-learning engineering contexts.Since service learning programs are by definition centered on direct interaction with the community––meaning the point at which students have direct contact with stakeholdersin the community comes sooner than it would otherwise––we believe the development of useable, practical ethical skills must come sooner, too. The disconnection in the literature on engineering ethics from the particular situation of service learning experiences, then, is problematic. Traditional classroom courses remain separated from the world outside the university, and sooftenplace less emphasis, and certainly less urgency, on teaching ethics.But service learning programs carry a greater responsibility to teach their students how to act “right”. They have a necessary urgency to their instruction in ethics and a unique gravity about the effectiveness of this instruction. Taking this proposition as our starting point, we see our positions as administrators of EPICS, a large, multi- disciplinary, service-learning design course at Purdue University,as an opportunity to infuse within our regular curriculum a practical course of instruction in ethics. Our goal in this regard is to help students learn viable skills that will enable them to work through a moral decision- making process on their own as they encounter ethical issues in the course of their profession and beyond.

Service learning programs, by virtue of their non-traditional classroom structure and their experiential learning models, present valuable opportunities for educators to add value to the student experience. In their book Where’s the Learning in Service Learning,Eyler and Giles (1999)3 illustrate this unique situation by drawing quotes from students actively involved with service learning programs:

I suppose I’ve learned about real life. That’s the only way I can put it. I’ve encountered people that I never would have met . . . situations that I would never have been confronted with . . . [and] I’ve been able to forge friendships with people that I never would have met. (23)

Titus, C., & Zoltowski, C., & Oakes, W. (2010, June), Integrating Ethics Curriculum Within A Service Learning Design Context Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16521

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