June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1161.1 - 13.1161.13
TEACHING ENGINEERING ETHICS IN A MULTI- DISCIPLINARY ENVIRONMENT Abstract
Most engineering faculty will agree that student engineers need a strong foundation in engineering ethics. Incorporating professional ethics into an already crowded engineering curriculum can be difficult. The engineering faculty at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) have implemented a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching ethics outside of the classroom environment. Our “Engineering Ethics Lunches” bring students and faculty from all four engineering disciplines: Electrical, Civil, Mechanical and Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering together in small groups to discuss ethics as they uniquely apply to the engineering discipline.
Historically, ethics instruction at USCGA has been based upon a core “Morals and Ethics” course taken by all students, regardless of major. While this course provides the students with a good foundation in classical ethics theory, it did not include “engineering ethics”. Specific instruction on engineering ethics was left to the instructors of each major’s senior design capstone course. However, depending upon the knowledge, interest or even class time available to the individual faculty members, this instruction was inconsistent and varied each year.
Starting in the 2006-2007 academic year, in an effort to improve upon and formalize ethics instruction for all engineering students, the four instructors of each major’s senior design capstone project began holding multi-disciplinary “Engineering Ethics Lunches”. Students and faculty form small groups during scheduled lunches to discuss specific ethical topics related to the engineering profession. The discussions are based upon assigned readings and suggested talking points developed jointly by the faculty. Afterwards, the students are required to submit essays reviewing their discussions and answering an ethical question based upon the topic.
Now in its fourth semester, the multi-disciplinary ethics lunches have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the instructors and students. This paper will discuss the format of the multi-disciplinary ethics discussions, the type of topics covered and the authors’ efforts to develop a handbook to reduce the preparation required for future lunches. The paper will also review the advantages of these lunches, including reduced workload for instructors and the integration of ethics into the curriculum without displacing discipline-specific engineering topics.
Most engineering faculty will agree that student engineers need a strong foundation in engineering ethics. Even if there is disagreement, criterion 3f of ABET’s accreditation requirement, which states that engineering programs must demonstrate that their students possess “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility”1, ensures that engineering programs will devote time to teaching engineering ethics. However, incorporating professional ethics into an already crowded engineering curriculum can be
Godfrey, D., & Taylor, T., & Fleischmann, C., & Pickles, D. (2008, June), Teaching Engineering Ethics In A Multi Disciplinary Environment Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3570
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