June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
NSF Grantees Poster Session
23.860.1 - 23.860.6
Learning to Listen: An Ethnographic Approach to Engineering Ethics EducationYanna Lambrinidou, Virginia TechMarc Edwards, Virginia TechThis poster will feature a new, NSF-funded initiative to teach graduate engineering ethicsthrough the use of ethnographic research methods. The course is based on the premisethat if engineers and scientists are to be successful in improving the quality of life andsustainability of societies, they must remain deserving of the public trust by holding thepublic welfare paramount. We argue that engineers and scientists who are in activecommunication with their ultimate client, the too often “unseen” and “silent” public,enjoy access to a wealth of information that is essential to informed decision-making, andare more likely to earn the public’s trust. In contrast, engineers and scientists who arealienated from their public clients are more vulnerable to self-interest, self-delusion, andinstitutional pressures that contribute to unethical conduct and harmful decisions. Ourwork with recent cases of community exposures to toxic materials, has revealed adangerous and perhaps growing gap between engineers and scientists, on the one hand,and the publics they are supposed to serve, on the other.To attempt to bridge this gap, we have developed a 3-credit graduate course titled“Engineering Ethics and the Public.” The course emphasizes aspirational ethics, with afocus on engineers’ and scientists’ personal “story of themselves” in the context of theirrelationship to the public. To foster an approach to ethical dilemmas that helps studentssee themselves in society rather than apart from it, the course introduces a 3-dimensionalexploration of ethics that allows engagement with real-world cases not only cognitively,but also emotionally and interactively. This exploration places students in direct contactwith a community’s diverse stakeholders, and requires them to use ethnographicinterviewing to understand a case from their interviewee’s perspective. This lens allowsstudents to define and refine their own ethical values, and promotes a first-handunderstanding of principles embodied in professional codes of conduct, moral theories,and multidisciplinary studies of human behavior. Moreover, it offers students a clearunderstanding of the technical and moral relevance of the public’s experiences,knowledge, values, and needs.As part of this NSF-funded effort, we are developing four educational modules for use byother institutions. Topics are: 1) Witnessing wrongdoing and the obligation to preventharm, 2) Aspirational ethics and learning to listen, 3) Responsible conduct of research,and 4) Responsible conduct of practice. Both the course and the modules will beevaluated through pre- and post-instruction student questionnaires.Biographical Information:Yanna Lambrinidou is a medical ethnographer and Adjunct Assistant Professor in theDepartment of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Virginia Tech. In 2010, sheconceived and co-taught the new graduate level engineering ethics class “EngineeringEthics and the Public.” In 2011, she and her collaborators were awarded a 3-year grantfrom the Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE) program of the NationalScience Foundation (NSF) for further development and national dissemination of thiscourse. She received her PhD and MA degrees in Folklore and Folklife at the Universityof Pennsylvania and a BA degree in psychology from Smith College.Marc A. Edwards is the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and EnvironmentalEngineering at Virginia Tech. Edwards received the Praxis Award in Professional Ethicsin 2010, a MacArthur Fellowship 2008-2012, and the IEEE Barus Award for defendingthe public interest in 2012. He received his PhD and MS degrees in engineering from theUniversity of Washington and a BS in biophysics from the State University of New Yorkat Buffalo.
Lambrinidou, Y., & Edwards, M. (2013, June), Learning to Listen: An Ethnographic Approach to Engineering Ethics Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19874
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: © 2013 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