June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.1272.1 - 23.1272.10
Two Years Later: A longitudinal look at the impact of engineering ethics educationEngineering ethics education has always been a difficult arena for the college instructor, not leastbecause of a lack of valid assessment results making clear which pedagogical approaches mightbe most successful. In this paper we present results from the longitudinal follow-up of theStudent Engineering Ethical Development (SEED) study. The SEED study is the largestinvestigation to date of the effect of a variety of engineering ethics pedagogies on the ethicaldevelopment of engineering undergraduates. We define ethical development as having threecomponents: knowledge of ethics, ethical reasoning, and ethical behavior. The SEED instrumentwas administered in Winter 2010 and again in Winter 2012, and a total of 450 engineeringundergraduates from 16 diverse institutions completed the instrument at both times. Studentswere in their first- or second-year during the first SEED administration and were predominantlyjuniors and seniors during the second.This paper will describe differences in students’ ethical development between the first andsecond administration as represented by descriptive statistics. Most importantly, results indicatea number of ways in which students’ ethical development is changed, and yet many others inwhich it remains the same despite two years of education. For example, we find that the numberof correctly answered items measuring knowledge of ethics is essentially unchanged, while thenumber of correctly answered complex questions increased. Student involvement in servicelearning and non-disciplinary community service activities increased over the two years, yetstudent involvement in service to a campus organization did not change. In terms of negativeethical behavior, students reported cheating at higher frequencies on tests and problem sets andon the second SEED administration, suggesting more willingness to engage in anti-socialbehaviors.The results of this two year longitudinal study seem to suggest that students’ are modifying theirbehavior in both pro- and anti-social ways and that these changes are driven by more than thecognitive domains of knowledge and reasoning which are most frequently the focus of ethicsinterventions. We suspect a cultural paradox is at play, where engagement in service to others isincreasingly a part of the campus culture, and yet the academic culture found in engineeringmanifests as higher rates of cheating over the academic careers of engineering undergraduates.
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