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Measuring Curriculum Effectiveness for Developing Principled Leaders in an Undergraduate Engineering Program

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Assessing Ethics Learning

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


David S. Greenburg The Citadel

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Dr. Greenburg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Leadership and Program Management (ELPM) in the School of Engineering (SOE) at The Citadel. He served over 20 years of active military service, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps. During his military career he served in a variety of progressively responsible command and staff and leadership positions in Infantry, Logistics, Acquisition, and Human Resources; with peacetime and combat experience. Upon completion of active military service, Dr. Greenburg served in program leadership positions at Eagan McAllister Associates, and Science Applications International Corporation until he joined the faculty at the Citadel. Dr. Greenburg’s research interests include modeling project networks, technical decision making and leadership. Dr. Greenburg earned is BA in History at The Citadel (1981), Masters in Management from the Naval Postgraduate School (1994), and his PhD in Business Administration (Management of Engineering and Technology) from Northcentral University (2010). He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) by The Project Management Institute (PMI).

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Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is a professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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A standard objective of most undergraduate engineering curricula is to prepare students to solve challenging problems by applying technical knowledge to create original ideas and then turn those into practical applications. In addition to providing the technical knowledge, it is becoming increasingly important that the engineering education provide students with the leadership tools needed to excel in their professions and to become ethical leaders in an increasingly complex world. The demand for principled engineering leaders will continue to play an increasingly vital role in the discovery of new knowledge and technologies that can address the complex global problems facing society. This demand amplifies the importance of teaching ethical leadership and decision making as a core element of the engineering curriculum and the need for it to remain at the forefront of curriculum design. This study seeks to provide insights into the research question of whether the use of an integrated leadership and ethics training program can have a positive impact on ethical decision making. Specifically, the ethics training impact on the abilities of undergraduate engineering students to identify and make ethical choices when posed with a selection of decision options. A group of five scenarios and 25 True/False questions based on the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics were used to measure the ability of students to identify and make decisions that adhere to a set standard of ethical and professional conduct relating to the practice of engineering. Scenarios were developed around situations that require the engineering student to make one or more decisions, selected from a menu of options presented. A two-group posttest-only randomized experiment was designed to investigate the research question. The test group of junior and senior engineering students have gone through 3 years of leadership training at [The institution] consisting of ROTC classes and professional ethics and conduct incorporated into the engineering curriculum. The control group consists of freshman engineering students at [The Institution] who have not received the ROTC and professional ethics and conduct classes. A simple random sample was taken of students in the school of engineering. All students in the study were administered the same ethics test. Analysis of the test results showed that there was no difference in mean scores on the tests. Within the limitations of the study, the findings suggest that the current curriculum does not appear to improve the ethical reasoning scores of upper class engineering students. This motivates the need for additional studies to investigate the effect of ethics and professional conduct focused training and design curricula.

Greenburg, D. S., & Rabb, R. J. (2020, June), Measuring Curriculum Effectiveness for Developing Principled Leaders in an Undergraduate Engineering Program Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34960

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