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Investigating Influences on First-year Engineering Students’ Views of Ethics and Social Responsibility

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count

17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30722

Download Count

29

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Paper Authors

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Swetha Nittala Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Swetha is currently a PhD student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue. Her current work includes identifying and developing leadership and technical competencies for early career engineers and managers. She integrates her research in Engineering Education with prior background in Human Resource Management and Engineering to understand better ways to manage technical talent in organizations.

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Tasha Zephirin Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Tasha Zephirin is a Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is an Executive Assistant for the National Association of Multicultural Program Advocates (NAMEPA) Inc. and also serves as the Graduate Student Representative on the Purdue Engineering Advisory Council. Her research interests include exploring the role of noncurricular engineering education initiatives in the engineering experience, especially within and across cultural boundaries. Through this research, she aims to inform the development and evaluation of these initiatives in a variety of contexts.

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Shiloh M. James Howland Brigham Young University

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Shiloh M. James Howland is a doctoral student at Brigham Young University in Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation. She received a master's degree in instructional psychology and technology as well as a bachelor's degree and master's degree in geology. Her current research interests are in educational measurement and program evaluation.

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Dayoung Kim Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dayoung Kim is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her current research interest includes engineering ethics, curriculum development for socially-responsible engineers, and cultural studies for engineers in a global context. She earned her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering at Yonsei University, South Korea in 2017.

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Andrew Katz Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Andrew Katz is a graduate student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Tulane University and M.Eng. in environmental engineering from Texas A&M University. Most recently, prior to beginning his graduate studies in engineering education he taught physics at a high school in Dallas, TX.

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Brent K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

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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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Abstract

According to current ABET accreditation requirements, engineering students need to become aware of the social contexts of engineering and develop ethical and professional responsibilities during their undergraduate training. Concerns also persist about the moral and ethical commitments of engineers once they enter the workplace, as underscored by a number of recent ethics scandals involving engineers and technology. The education of ethically adept engineers therefore remains a pertinent issue for the engineering education community. Yet there remains relatively little research on how students’ prior experiences shape their ethical perspectives. Specifically, there is a lack of understanding of the role of pre-college and early college experiences and other influences in shaping first-year engineering students’ views on ethics. This paper reports select results from an NSF-funded project aiming to address some of these gaps in the literature. This longitudinal study was conducted across four universities and focused on the ethical development of undergraduate engineering students. Preliminary analysis of interviews from the first phase of this study identified a number of major themes in the data set, two of which are important to highlight here: 1) influences on students’ ethical perspectives (e.g., academic curricular, extracurricular activities, family, etc.) and 2) learned outcomes, defined as insights, learning, or realizations related to ethics, morality, and values. Deeper investigation of the relationship between specific influences and students’ insights related to ethics can provide a better understanding of first-year engineering students’ baseline ethical development. The goal of this paper is to characterize what specific ethical lessons are gained through various types of experiences, as well as to glean how this learning and growth occurs. Data for this study was drawn from 66 interview transcripts and consisted of sections coded simultaneously for influences and learned outcomes. The cross-coded data were analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. The types of influences impacting students’ ethical learning, and exemplars of how students report their lived experiences and ethical realizations, are discussed through the lens of what they learned and the mechanisms through which they gained these understandings.

Our analysis suggests that several pre-college (e.g., extracurricular activities, service/volunteer roles and social experiences) and early college experiences (e.g., academic courses, part-time employment) play a critical role in shaping students’ ethical perspectives. We more specifically present our findings organized around eight types of experiences and influences, which are in turn related to three categories of learned outcomes and three types of learning mechanisms. As we discuss in more detail below, the results of this study will likely be of interest to engineering educators, policymakers, and researchers with an interest in administering and studying high-impact ethics interventions for undergraduate engineering students. More specifically, our results underscore the importance of being more aware of how students’ background perspectives and experiences may play important roles in enabling or disabling their further ethical development.

Nittala, S., & Zephirin, T., & Howland, S. M. J., & Kim, D., & Katz, A., & Jesiek, B. K. (2018, June), Investigating Influences on First-year Engineering Students’ Views of Ethics and Social Responsibility Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30722

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: © 2018 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