June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
There have been continuous calls for enhancing ethics instruction in the fields of science and engineering. However, it has proven difficult to integrate ethics into the curricula of these fields in ways that promote the actual practice of skills students will need in order to recognize and respond to ethical dilemmas in their careers. In response to this challenge, this paper presents a method of ethics instruction which uses expert witness role plays to promote a greater educational experience. Under a NSF funded research project, this method has been systematically analyzed and adjusted in order to optimize the student experience and enrich skill development. Multiple scenarios and instructional designs have been tried and a variety of assessment methods have been utilized. This paper presents the ways in which formative assessments have informed the current instructional framework. It provides an in-depth description of the current framework and its most recent evaluation. The paper concludes with recommendations for future use of this method of ethics instruction, considerations for further refinement of the approach, and insights about the use of formative assessments within ethics education.
For the past six years, the authors have incorporated an ethics component in an undergraduate mechanical engineering course. The ethics instruction requires students to act as expert witnesses in a legal action simulation where they perform engineering analyses, write a report, and defend their findings in an oral interview. The project emphasizes ethical decision making, technical competence, professionalism, and communication. For the past three years, the ethics component has been systematically modified with the intent to establish a variety of scenario options and in effort to optimize the ethics instruction approach. The scenario options now include reconstructing a car crash, a lift collapse, and an UTV roll-over. Instructional approaches explored include utilizing law students to depose teams of engineering students, conducting high pressure expert witness selection interviews by mock lawyers and field experts, and incorporating follow-up group debrief and sense-making sessions.
The most recently conducted program was developed as a result of the cumulative assessments from the prior years of formative research. The program has a three part framework in which students 1) conduct an analysis and create a technical report as though they are an expert; 2) participate in a high-pressure interview where they defend their conclusions to interviewers who are acting as lawyers with an agenda; and 3) attend a group debrief session where they discuss their experiences with their peers. Comprehensive program evaluations were conducted with 80 participating students. Students completed pre- and post-tests of knowledge and reasoning. Students also responded to a post-interview reactions survey which both informed the debrief sessions and provided data for a comparison of the current method to prior years’ approaches. Summative evaluations of this program as informed through the years of formative development are discussed.
Kerr, A. J., & Brummel, B. J., & Daily, J. S. (2017, June), The Development and Evaluation of Expert Witness Role Play Instruction for Teaching Engineering Ethics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28954
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