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Investigating Engineering Students' Understandings of Social and Ethical Responsibility: Coding Framework and Initial Findings

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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

Engineering Social and Human Ethical Impacts

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count

25

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28585

Download Count

83

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Paper Authors

biography

Brent K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is an Associate Professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He also leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award to study boundary-spanning roles and competencies among early career engineers. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and practice.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Carla B. Zoltowski is an assistant professor of engineering practice in the Schools of Electrical and Computer Engineering and (by courtesy) Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a B.S.E.E., M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. in Engineering Education, all from Purdue. Prior to this she was Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue where she was responsible for developing curriculum and assessment tools and overseeing the research efforts within EPICS. Her academic and research interests include the professional formation of engineers, diversity and inclusion in engineering, human-centered design, engineering ethics, leadership, service-learning, and accessibility and assistive-technology.

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Debra S. Fuentes Brigham Young University

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Debra S. Fuentes is a doctoral student at Brigham Young University in Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation specializing in Mathematics Education. She received a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction emphasizing English as a Second Language, and a Bachelor's degree in elementary education, minoring in Spanish and pre-medicine studies. She previously worked in education as a teacher and administrator in Utah and Mexico for eleven years combined. Much of her current work and research focuses on Cognitively Guided Instruction in mathematics.

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Stephanie Claussen Colorado School of Mines

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Stephanie Claussen’s experience spans both engineering and education research. She obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. Her Ph.D. work at Stanford University focused on optoelectronics, and she continues that work in her position at the Colorado School of Mines, primarily with the involvement of undergraduate researchers. In her role as an Associate Teaching Professor, she is primarily tasked with the education of undergraduate engineers. In her courses, she employs active learning techniques and project-based learning. Her previous education research, also at Stanford, focused on the role of cultural capital in science education. Her current interests include engineering students' development of social responsibility and the impact of students' backgrounds in their formation as engineers.

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Gregg Morris Warnick Brigham Young University

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Gregg M. Warnick is the Director of the Weidman Center for Global Leadership and Associate Teaching Professor of Engineering Leadership within the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology at Brigham Young University (BYU). The center provides oversight for leadership development and international activities within the college and he works actively with students, faculty and staff to promote and develop increased capabilities in global agility and leadership. His research and teaching interests include developing global agility, globalization, leadership, project management, ethics, and manufacturing processes. Gregg has lived in numerous locations within the USA and Europe and has worked in many places including North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Prior to joining BYU, Gregg worked for Becton Dickinson, a Global Medical Technology fortune 500 Company. In this capacity he worked as a product development engineer, quality engineer, technical lead, business leader and program/project manager managing many different global projects. Gregg received his PhD in Educational Leadership and Higher Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Master of Technology Management degree and a BS in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, from Brigham Young University. Gregg also does consulting in project management and leadership working with IPS Learning and Stanford University where he provides training for fortune 500 companies throughout the world.

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Abstract

Examples of unethical and irresponsible practices by practicing engineers continue to make headlines. In addition, the National Academy of Engineering and other organizations have issued numerous calls to cultivate greater social and ethical responsibility among engineering students and professionals. These drivers have motivated the creation of many formal ethics courses and programs across engineering education, as well as other interventions (e.g., service learning programs) to more broadly challenge engineering students to see themselves as engaged citizens and community members. However, there has been a lack of research on foundational understandings of social and ethical responsibility among undergraduate engineering students, both in terms of what these specific constructs mean to the students, as well as how their views change over time and are impacted by specific kinds of learning experiences.

To address this lack of research and empirical evidence, our NSF-supported Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM (CCE STEM) research project is exploring three main objectives using a longitudinal, mixed-methods study design involving researchers and students at four universities. The larger objectives of this project are to: O1) Characterize patterns of ethical development among undergraduate engineering students, O2) Identify specific context variables (e.g., climate and culture of programs and institutions) and types of interventions (e.g., formal ethics instruction, service learning programs, etc.) that have positive (or negative) impacts on foundational measures and understandings of social and ethical responsibility, and O3) Identify specific student characteristics that can be leveraged to grow programs oriented toward social and/or ethical responsibility, while increasing program alignment with – and impacts on – participating individuals.

Our larger study design involves collecting data at three different points in the students’ undergraduate experience: 1) Baseline survey and interviews during their first semester/year, 2) Mid-point survey during the junior year (5th semester), and 3) Survey and interviews during their senior year (8th semester). The survey includes items and measures related to engineering ethics knowledge, justice beliefs, political and social involvement, macro-ethical considerations, moral attentiveness, moral disengagement, and ethical climate, along with extensive demographics. The interview protocol explored these areas through questions related to: 1) general definitions of ethics and engineering ethics, including macro-ethics, 2) experiences (past, present, and future) that may shape students’ ethical perspectives and sense of social responsibility, 3) ethical climate, and 4) ethical scenarios. The baseline data collection included survey responses from 757 participants and 113 interviews. Preliminary analysis of the survey data has been completed.

In this paper we describe the development of the qualitative research protocol for this study, informed by the survey data and resulting in a codebook used to analyze the interview data. This coding framework is organized in three major areas: influences (persons, experiences, etc.), learned outcomes, and perspectives in specific areas of interest such as general definitions of ethics and engineering ethics, views on the university climate, etc. In this paper we present initial findings and insights from the interview data related to students’ perceptions of learned values and outcomes associated with ethics and social responsibility, their definitions of ethics generally and engineering ethics specifically, and specific influences they perceived as important.

Jesiek, B. K., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Fuentes, D. S., & Claussen, S., & Warnick, G. M. (2017, June), Investigating Engineering Students' Understandings of Social and Ethical Responsibility: Coding Framework and Initial Findings Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28585

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