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Teaching Moral Reasoning Skills Within Standard Civil Engineering Courses

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.487.1 - 4.487.7

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Paper Authors

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Sal Arnaldo

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1615

Teaching Moral Reasoning Skills Within Standard Civil Engineering Courses

Sal G. Arnaldo, P.E. City of Tallahassee Public Works Department/ University of Florida Department of Civil Engineering


This paper guides civil engineering educators in identifying ways in which moral reasoning skills, keyed to current engineering ethics codes, can be effectively taught within standard undergraduate civil engineering courses. Practical suggestions and examples are offered. Particular attention is given to incorporating these concepts within problem solving methodology.

I. Introduction

The average workday of a civil engineer requires the use of “soft skills” (non-technical skills)9. Many students will assume managerial duties early (10 years or less) into their career1. Many situations in professional life (in the both management and technical aspects) require the application of ethical principles.

According to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), criteria for engineering programs in the United States must introduce students to the ethical, social, economic, and safety issues that arise from the practice of engineering. Newly proposed ABET criteria for the 21st century state that programs must demonstrate that their graduates have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility, an ability to effectively communicate, the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global societal context, and a knowledge of contemporary issues3. In the past, required courses such as Introduction to Engineering or Professional Issues in Civil Engineering typically included instruction in ethics issues.

In Florida, there is pressure from the state legislature to reduce the number of credit hours required for graduation4. This places courses that introduce student engineers to societal issues, ethics, and the role of the engineer in jeopardy because they are neither required nor counted for graduation. The alternative is to teach ethical principles within the context of required technical courses—in effect, “seizing the opportunity” to introduce ethics in a new and very relevant way.

Arnaldo, S. (1999, June), Teaching Moral Reasoning Skills Within Standard Civil Engineering Courses Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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