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The Moral Foundations of Chinese Engineering Students: A Preliminary Investigation

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session - Ethics Across Contexts

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Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Rockwell Franklin Clancy III University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong Joint Institute

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Rockwell F. Clancy is an Associate Teaching Professor in engineering ethics and philosophy at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, Research Fellow in the Institute of Social Cognitive and Behavioral Science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and has acted as a long-term educational consultant, setting up a course and writing a corresponding textbook with Heinz Luegenbiehl, entitled Global Engineering Ethics. His research and teaching interests include engineering ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of technology, Chinese philosophy, political philosophy, and contemporary European philosophy. Rockwell completed his PhD at Purdue University, West Lafayette, MA at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, and BA at Fordham University, New York.

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Horst Hohberger University of Michigan - Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute

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Dr. Horst Hohberger is an Associate Teaching Professor for Mathematics at the UM-SJTU Joint Institute (JI) and also serves as the Faculty Advisor for International Programs. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Potsdam, Germany in 2006. His research interests include semiclassical asymptotics, scattering theory and Maslov operator theory, as well as academic integrity in international engineering education.

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Technology-related disasters and scandals have resulted in concerns regarding the safety and ethics of Chinese companies and practitioners. Although China now graduates and employs more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors than any other country in the world, ethics is not yet a central component of engineering education. Simply importing foreign curricula, however, would be ineffective. Culture has been shown to affect ethical judgments, such that curricula based on the Western philosophical tradition are potentially problematic. More importantly, these curricula stress ethical understanding and the ability to reason ethically as educational outcomes, although these outcomes do not result in more ethical behaviors. To explain the causes of (un)ethical behaviors, numerous psycho-social models of ethical decision-making and judgments have been proposed, which can be used to improve engineering ethics education. To demonstrate this approach, a study was carried out with Chinese engineering students using two of these paradigms, Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) and elements of behavioral ethics. Similar to results from studies involving participants from Western cultures, Chinese engineering students were found to moralize behaviors associated with fairness to the greatest extent, closely followed by care, and then loyalty, authority, and sanctity. However, they moralized behaviors associated with fairness and care to a lesser extent, and those associated with loyalty, authority, and sanctity to a greater extent, than study participants from Western cultures. Chinese engineering students were only slightly likely to expect to face ethical issues in their working lives, but reported thinking it was important to be ethical. On this basis, recommendations are made for the improvement of engineering ethics education applicable both in China and in general, as well as proposals for future research.

Clancy, R. F., & Hohberger, H. (2019, June), The Moral Foundations of Chinese Engineering Students: A Preliminary Investigation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33408

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