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The Ultimate Goal of Ethics Education Should Be More Ethical Behaviors

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Critical Reflections on Engineering Ethics Education

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Rockwell Franklin Clancy III Delft University of Technology

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Rockwell F. Clancy is a Lecture at Delft University of Technology. Before joining Delft, he was an Associate Teaching Professor in engineering ethics and philosophy at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute and Research Fellow in the Institute of Social Cognition and Decision-making, both in Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His research and teaching interests include engineering ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of technology, Chinese philosophy, and political 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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Andrea Gammon Delft University of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Andrea Gammon is Assistant Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology at TU Delft.

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Ethics has been recognized as critical to engineering, although disagreement exists concerning the form engineering ethics education should take. In part, this results from disagreements about the goals of engineering ethics education, which inhibit the development of and progress in a cohesive research agenda and educational practices. To address these issues, this paper argues that the ultimate goal of engineering ethics education should be more long-term ethical behaviors. To do so, however, engineering ethics must engage with the field of empirical moral psychology. This paper begins by considering reasons for adopting ethical behaviors as the ultimate goal of ethics education, and why this would be problematic: Behaviors are what the public cares about, as well as professional organizations, and accurately assessing the effects of education on ethical behaviors is difficult if not impossible. Instead, curricula have tended to adopt ethical understanding and reasoning as the goals of ethics education, although it is unclear that these result in more ethical behaviors. The paper goes on to consider responses to these problems: Empirical moral psychology has resources for assessing the effects of education on ethical behaviors. A growing body of cross-cultural research has identified features of ethics that are and are not shared across cultural groups, as well as factors that contribute to ethical behaviors. Rather than assessing behaviors directly, proxies for behaviors can be identified and assessed. The nature of engineering itself can be used to formulate guidelines of ethical behaviors, which would transcend national and cultural groups.

Clancy, R. F., & Gammon, A. (2021, July), The Ultimate Goal of Ethics Education Should Be More Ethical Behaviors Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37901

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