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Student Perceptions of an Ethics Intervention: Exploration across Three Course Types

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Research on Engineering Ethics Education and Practice

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count

17

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35229

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35229

Download Count

72

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Paper Authors

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Madeline Polmear University of Florida Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-7774-6834

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Madeline Polmear is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. Her research interests include workforce development and engineering ethics education.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Nathan E. Canney CYS Structural Engineers Inc.

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Dr. Canney conducts research focused on engineering education, specifically the development of social responsibility in engineering students. Other areas of interest include ethics, service learning, and sustainability education. Dr. Canney received bachelors degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Seattle University, a masters in Civil Engineering from Stanford University with an emphasis on structural engineering, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5670-8938

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Chris Swan is Dean of Undergraduate Education for the School of Engineering and an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. He has additional appointments in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts. His current engineering education research interests focus on community engagement, service-based projects and examining whether an entrepreneurial mindset can be used to further engineering education innovations. He also does research on the development of sustainable materials management (SMM) strategies.

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Daniel Knight University of Colorado Boulder

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Daniel W. Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate at Design Center (DC) Colorado in CU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Louisiana State University, an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in education, both from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of K-12, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development, outreach and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

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Abstract

Despite the importance of ethical reasoning and understanding social context in engineering practice, there are a number of barriers to the effective integration of ethics and societal impacts (ESI) in engineering education. One often cited challenge is the dense and technically focused nature of the engineering curriculum, which affords limited time and priority for ESI. Another issue is a lack of student engagement stemming from engineering students who do not see the value and relevance of ESI. However, novel ESI interventions, such as micro-insertions, can present the opportunity to overcome these obstacles by including ESI in technical courses to demonstrate the interconnection between the foundational material and its societal and environmental implications. This research paper explores the impact of one such intervention from the student perspective through qualitative data collected in focus groups. An activity examining hydraulic fracturing from different perspectives (e.g., economic, political, environmental) was incorporated into three courses at the same institution in fall 2017. For the class period, students were placed in groups and each group was assigned a perspective and tasked with conducting research on the topic through that lens. All three courses were offered through a chemical and biological engineering department and included a required, foundational course; an upper-division technical elective; and a lower-division elective open to all majors on campus. The three courses were included as a case study in a larger National Science Foundation-funded study exploring potential exemplars of ESI education across the United States. The case study involved observations of the intervention and separate focus groups with students in the courses.

The selection of the case studies and development of the focus group protocol were grounded in Vanasupa and colleague’s Four Domain Development Diagram. This model provides a theoretical framing for effective learning in engineering education and includes ethical development. The focus group transcripts were analyzed using thematic coding to explore evidence of the model concepts (e.g., value, interest, and autonomy). Using the constant comparative method, the analysis also sought to understand similarities and differences in student perceptions based on course context and major. Across the three courses, students described the value of learning about non-technical issues that are otherwise invisible in the engineering curriculum and appreciated the autonomy to conduct their own research on hydraulic fracturing from the assigned perspective. Some students in the required foundational course expressed that it would have been helpful if the relevance of the activity to the course content was more explicit. The paper will detail the full qualitative findings and discuss implications of the research, including the implementation of micro-insertions of ESI in various engineering curricular settings.

Polmear, M., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Canney, N. E., & Swan, C., & Knight, D. (2020, June), Student Perceptions of an Ethics Intervention: Exploration across Three Course Types Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35229

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