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"To Move People From Apathy": A Multiperspective Approach To Ethics Across The Engineering Curriculum

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Paper Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.3.1 - 9.3.15



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Paper Authors

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Glenn Ellis

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Susannah Howe

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Donna Riley

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

Session 2540


Donna Riley, Glenn Ellis, and Susannah Howe

Picker Engineering Program, Smith College

Abstract Humanist Algernon Black wrote that the unifying goal of ethics is “to move people from apathy, from an acceptance of the evils in life, to face the possibilities of the world….” To this end, faculty in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College are teaching ethics across the curriculum, employing a range of pedagogical tools that are learner-centered, grounded in real- world contexts, and supportive of critical thinking and reflective action.

Ethics are woven across five required courses in the Smith curriculum: a design-based introductory course, a first year course in mass and energy balances, continuum mechanics, thermodynamics, and the capstone design clinic. The first-year courses motivate a well-rounded engineering education and social responsibility, encourage reflective thought and values articulation, and introduce frameworks for ethical problem solving and case analysis. Core engineering courses build on this experience, employing additional cases that integrate relevant engineering content. In the capstone design course, students apply what they have learned preventively to identify potential pitfalls related to their particular projects. Additionally, advanced ethics topics are explored in two upper-level technical electives, examining key issues of environment and sustainability and considering critically the role of engineering in global development.

The theme of celebrating multiple perspectives unifies this work. Not only are students encouraged to develop the skills of approaching ethical problems from many different viewpoints and engaging in respectful dialogue with peers who hold different positions, but also this difference of perspective is modeled throughout the curriculum as students experience ethics through varying pedagogies, teaching styles, and learning activities.

Assessment of student progress includes evaluating student narratives, case studies, and interactive reflective essays for student ability to reflect deeply, articulate values, frame problems, employ multiple perspectives, think critically and analytically, and generate creative solutions. Results from student focus groups provide additional data that influence our next steps for curricular development. Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering

Ellis, G., & Howe, S., & Riley, D. (2004, June), "To Move People From Apathy": A Multiperspective Approach To Ethics Across The Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13836

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