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Making Ethics Explicit: Relocating Ethics to the Core of Engineering Education

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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

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.881.1 - 23.881.11

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Paper Authors


Mary E. Sunderland University of California, Berkeley

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Dr. Mary Sunderland is a historian of science and technology. She studies the history and philosophy of engineering education as a way to better understand the changing societal role of the engineer. Her work on engineering ethics has appeared in Science and Engineering Ethics. She developed and teaches the course, Ethics, Engineering, and Society at the University of California Berkeley’s College of Engineering and is an instructor in UC Berkeley's Minner Program in Engineering Ethics Faculty Fellows Program. Her other research interests include the ethics of translational medicine and the history of the twentieth century life sciences, especially embryology, regeneration, and natural history.

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Joonhong Ahn University of California, Berkeley

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Cathryn Carson University of California, Berkeley


William E. Kastenberg University of California, Berkeley

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W. E. Kastenberg is the Daniel M. Tellep Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. His research and teaching interests include the development of risk analysis frameworks and their application to complex engineered systems and natural phenomena. He has also taught a course entitled Ethics and the Impact of Technology on Society for ten years before retiring, and is actively engaged in teaching young faculty how to teach engineering ethics. He is currently principle investigator for an NSF Grant entitled: Making Ethics Explicit: Relocating Ethics to the Core of Engineering Education.

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Making Ethics Explicit: Relocating Ethics to the Core of Engineering EducationThis NSF EEC funded project is based on the expanding, and at times controversialliterature that emphasizes the centrality of emotion to moral reasoning, and recognizesthat comparatively little work has been published on how this might be accomplished inthe classroom, especially in higher education. Our poster proposes effective pedagogicalpractices to incorporate emotions into engineering ethics curricula and reports the earlyresults of an empirical study to assess the effects of engaging emotion in the learningprocess. Our poster builds on the widely established success of active and collaborativelearning environments, in particular the problem-based learning philosophy andmethodology, to articulate new strategies for incorporating emotion into engineeringethics education. We synthesize findings from the philosophy of emotion, science andengineering ethics, engineering studies, and education research to develop effectivepedagogical approaches to ethics instruction that take emotion seriously. Drawing onmaterial that was generated during the development and implementation of an advanced(upper-division) undergraduate seminar course, “Ethics, Engineering, and Society,” thispaper offers an empirical and conceptual analysis of how students respond to emotion inethics curricula. This seminar, which was first taught during the 2011/12 AcademicYear, has also informed the funded project. The poster shows that emotions offer an entrypoint to ethics that engages students’ preconceptions and therefore meets them wherethey are. Pedagogical research emphasizes the importance of beginning with students’starting points. If students’ preconceptions are not addressed, they typically resort tomemorizing content (e.g., normative rules) and continue to use their preconceptions oncethey leave the classroom. Ethics instruction should begin by engaging students’ existingethical frameworks, which are likely to be in a preconception stage and thereforeexpressed emotively. Rather than portraying emotion as a threat to rationality, this posterexamines strategies that encourage students to explore the relationship between emotionsand feelings, logic and reason, and values and ethics.

Sunderland, M. E., & Ahn, J., & Carson, C., & Kastenberg, W. E. (2013, June), Making Ethics Explicit: Relocating Ethics to the Core of Engineering Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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