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Student Views on their Role in Society as an Engineer and Relevant Ethical Issues

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session - Classroom Practices

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33304

Download Count

3

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Paper Authors

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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). 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 interdisciplinary students learn 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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David Zhao

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Alexandra Danielle Kulich Tufts University

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Madeline Polmear University of Colorado, Boulder

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Madeline Polmear is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research interests include ethics education and the societal impacts of engineering and technology.

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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 reuse strategies for waste materials.

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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

It is important that engineering and computing students are educated to understand the ethical expectations of the profession and to consider the broader impacts of their work (termed ethics and societal issues, ESI). However, assessment methods related to these outcomes that rely on Likert-type responses or structured assignments may be susceptible to social desirability or positive response bias. When prompted, students will normally agree that ethics are important and can select the correct answer for simple ESI questions. But what do engineering and computing students quickly draw to mind in relation to ESI? To explore this, students were asked to respond to two open-ended survey questions: (1) How do you view your role in society as an engineer or computer scientist? (2) List the ethical issues that you think are relevant to engineers and/or computer scientists. It was of interest to determine if student responses would vary from the beginning to the end of a term or across 15 settings where instructors had integrated content and learning goals pertaining to ESI (ranging from first-year introductory courses to courses fully focused on ethics at different institutions and among different majors). Students’ open-ended responses were coded using a combination of a priori and emergent codes. Student responses regarding their role in society generally encompassed six theme areas (in order of decreasing prevalence): societal benefits, technology, sustainability, obligations, self, and responsibility to employer. In regards to relevant ethical issues, common themes included safety, environmental protection, and monetary trade-offs. Differences among the prevalence of particular themes across the courses may be due to differences in the interests and/or training in different majors. The very short responses from many students are somewhat troubling, given that all students should be able to readily answer these questions with more complex and detailed responses after having taken a course that included ethics content. This raises interesting issues around students’ feelings about the importance of these topics, and indicates that these questions may reflect on the affective domain (e.g. value) to an equal or greater extent than the cognitive domain (e.g. knowledge, reflected in the response to Q2).

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Zhao, D., & Kulich, A. D., & Polmear, M., & Canney, N. E., & Swan, C., & Knight, D. (2019, June), Student Views on their Role in Society as an Engineer and Relevant Ethical Issues Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33304

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