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Integrating Ethics In Engineering Education Utilizing A Psychological Model

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Ethics Classes: Creative or Inefficient

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.787.1 - 10.787.6



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Paper Authors

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Susan Magun-Jackson

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Integrating Ethics in Engineering Education Utilizing a Psychological Model

Susan Magun-Jackson, Ph.D. The University of Memphis


As the engineering profession has become progressively more complex, ethics has become an increasingly important issue. Engineers must sometimes make significant decisions that are often based upon what appears to be what they believe to be morally correct and what appears to be best for their employers or themselves. Engineering education, however, does not always sufficiently prepare students for the ethical conflicts that face them when they join the workforce. Consequently, engineering educators have been challenged with the difficult task of preparing professionals who are technically competent and ethically aware, one of the first steps in ethics education.1

The need to integrate ethics into an engineering curriculum is well documented. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has incorporated “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility” as part of the general criteria for evaluating undergraduate engineering curriculum.2 The ASEE website also states that “because engineering has a large and growing impact on society, engineers must be equipped by their education to fulfill their ethical obligations to the public at large, to their profession, and to their clients and employers.”3 This has led to great diversity in how institutions approach the task of teaching ethics to undergraduate engineering students.4,5,6 Some curriculums require general ethics courses from philosophical or religious perspectives; others integrate ethics in existing engineering courses. While there is a standard focus and content for engineering courses (e.g., thermodynamics and hydrology) there is no standard curriculum for an engineering ethics course and it is often quite difficult for engineering educators who are focused on course content.

The purpose of this paper and presentation is to propose a method that is pedagogically based on Kohlberg’s stage theory of moral development7 that can implement the integration of ethics in engineering education and to provide a model with specific examples that may be used as a guide within the curriculum of those educators committed to integrating ethics in engineering education. Kohlberg’s theory has produced a great deal of empirical research on student’s moral development and demonstrates that people progress in their moral reasoning, which is the basis for ethical behavior, through a series of stages. These stages are germane to understanding the professional moral development of engineers.8 Because most engineering faculty are unaware of the theory and/or how to implement it into an engineering course or curriculum, this paper and presentation will briefly discuss the theory in general and focus on steps to facilitate the integration of the theory in the classroom.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Magun-Jackson, S. (2005, June), Integrating Ethics In Engineering Education Utilizing A Psychological Model Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15428

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015