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Lessons Learned from Teaching with an Ethics Toolkit

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.864.1 - 23.864.18



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Paper Authors


Martin S. High Oklahoma State University

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Dr. Marty High is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University. His academic interests include teaching in all areas and at all levels of chemical engineering with a focus on instruction in thermodynamics and mass transfer. His research interests are in the areas of mass transfer in polymeric systems, corrosion modeling, equation of state development and refinery catalysis. Marty also writes in the area of sustainability and on the intersection of law, science and society. He received his engineering education at Penn State (B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.) and earned his law degree (J.D.) from the University of Tulsa.

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Scott D Gelfand Oklahoma State University, Department of Philosophy

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Dr. Scott Gelfand is an associate professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma State University and founding director of the Ethics Center at OSU. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of theoretical ethics, research ethics, biomedical ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of law. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Maryland and his J.D. from Georgetown University.

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Ronald Steve Harrist Ph.D. Oklahoma State University

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Dr. Steve Harrist is the Hyle Endowed professor in K-20 Leadership and associate school head in the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology at Oklahoma State University. His interests include theoretical and philosophical psychology and ethical leadership.

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Shelia M. Kennison Oklahoma State University

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Dr. Kennison is an associate professor of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. She is also the IRB chair. Her research focuses on human cognition, language comprehension, and memory.

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Lessons Learned from Teaching with an Ethics Toolkit Abstract We have previously presented plans to implement alternative methods to teach ethics toengineering students. In this paper, we illustrate what we have learned in the process of implementingour new curriculum. The premise of our approach is that engineering education provides students witha wide variety of tools and skills: mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer programming, anddiscipline specific knowledge. All of these tools are designed to be multipurpose and adaptable towhatever problem the student will face in practice. However, one area in which our students tend to beunderprepared and tend to be lacking in analogous “tools” to solve problems is in ethics. Ethics istypically taught by showing students case studies that exemplify unethical behavior. Although highlyuseful, case studies tend to show students what not to do, rather that demonstrating the proper courseof action to take. This paper discusses an approach to ethics education that complements the casestudy approach to teaching ethics. The approach to ethics education that we advocate stresses the psychological variables thatinfluence people with good intentions to act unethically. Standard ethics classes neglect the topic ofmoral psychology. Specifically, these classes do not teach students why people act unethically, and theydo not provide students with strategies to increase the likelihood that they will act in accord with theirown ethical commitments and the ethical codes of their professions. We have designed a class (ablended learning approach which can stand alone as a seminar or be added to the curriculum tosupplement traditional research ethics classes) that uses video clips containing re-enactments ofpublished empirical studies that demonstrate why people act unethically. After a discussion of eachvideo, each individual student is guided through a two-part exercise. The first part, developing aPersonal Inventory Report, helps the student engage in self-reflection in order to determine what sortsof situations the student might find ethically challenging. In the second part of the exercise, the studentdevelops a personal plan (Adaptive-Strategies Report) addressing what strategies they might use inorder to increase the likelihood that they will act ethically in challenging situations (that is, the situationsarrived at while developing the Personal Inventory Report). The Adaptive Strategies Report helps thestudent: 1) recognize ethically challenging situations; 2) engaging in critical analysis or reflection aboutthe ethically challenging situation; and 3) act ethically in ethically challenging situations (that is, applythe strategies developed for the Adaptive-Strategies Report). The products of this exercise – PersonalInventory Report and Adaptive-Strategies Report – are provided to each student, and they can be usedthroughout the student’s career, especially when in a new professional situation.

High, M. S., & Gelfand, S. D., & Harrist, R. S., & Kennison, S. M. (2013, June), Lessons Learned from Teaching with an Ethics Toolkit Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19878

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