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Two Years Later: A longitudinal look at the impact of engineering ethics education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division - Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1272.1 - 23.1272.10



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Paper Authors


Trevor Scott Harding California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Trevor Harding, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of Materials Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where he teaches courses in engineering design from a materials perspective. He is currently PI on a multi-university collaborative research study assessing the ethical outcomes associated with the curricular and extra-curricular experiences of engineering undergraduates on a national scale. In addition, Dr. Harding has conducted several investigations on the influence of non-traditional teaching methods (e.g. service learning, project-based learning) on student motivation and self-efficacy. He is also PI on several projects investigating the degradation of biomedical materials in physiological environments. Dr. Harding presently serves as associate editor of the on-line journal Advances in Engineering Education, and served as chair of the Materials Division and vice-chair of the ERM Division of ASEE. Dr. Harding received the 2010 ASEE Pacific Southwest Section Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2008 President’s Service Learning Award for innovations in the use of service learning at Cal Poly. In 2004 he was named a Templeton Research Fellow by the Center for Academic Integrity, Duke University. Dr. Harding received both the 1999 Apprentice Faculty Grant and 2000 New Faculty Fellow Award for his contributions to engineering education.

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Donald D. Carpenter P.E. Lawrence Technological University


Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Engineering and research associate professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She actively pursues research in engineering education and assists other faculty at U-M in their scholarly endeavors. Her current research interests include studying faculty motivation to change classroom practices, evaluating methods to improve teaching, and exploring ethical decision-making in undergraduate engineering students. Dr. Finelli leads a national initiative to create a taxonomy/keyword outline for the field of engineering education research, and she is past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of the American Society of Engineering Education.

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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.

Harding, T. S., & Carpenter, D. D., & Finelli, C. J. (2013, June), Two Years Later: A longitudinal look at the impact of engineering ethics education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22657

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