June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.1291.1 - 24.1291.27
Understanding of Social Responsibility by First Year Engineering Students: Ethical Foundations and Courses Engineering Ethics DivisionEngineers play a significant role in society. But the extent to which students consider this role asa desirable career attribute and extend their beliefs about the social responsibility of engineersbeyond basic ethical foundations is not fully understood. A qualitative study was completed tounderstand how first year engineering students define social responsibility and how it relates toengineering.Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 34 first year engineering students.The students were initially majoring in civil, environmental, mechanical, or undeclaredengineering at one of four American universities. The interviews were conducted between Apriland June, 2013. As part of a 30 to 60 minute interview the students were asked to describeexperiences in life prior to college or during college that influenced their view of socialresponsibility. They were also asked how confident they were that they will get an engineeringdegree and practice engineering after graduation. Open coding methods were used to analyze theinterview transcripts for themes. The three authors co-developed a code book based on a sub-setof 13 interviews (5 per person with 1 in common for all three readers). Inter-rater reliability wasestablished on a sub-set of five of the interviews. Then a single individual coded all of theinterviews.Results: The interviews revealed that some students had thought extensively about socialresponsibility while others had not really considered it before and struggled to define it. Studentsdefined social responsibility in a variety of ways. On the personal side, students talked ofpersonal obligations to help others, making society better, charity, and working to alleviateglobal inequalities. On the professional side, students discussed ethical behavior, sharingknowledge/talents with others, and a responsibility to pay back society for its investment in theireducation.Students described that their sense of social responsibility largely derived from familyinfluences, religion, previous volunteer and/or community service activities, and travel abroad.In college, students discussed learning about ethics in the introduction to engineering courses,service-learning projects in courses, humanities/social science electives, and extracurricularactivities such as Engineers Without Borders.Social responsibility seemed to be perceived differently by the students in relation toengineering. Some students did not seem to relate an engineering career to social responsibility.Others seemed to believe that societal benefits was a positive attribute of engineering but not aclear motivation for choosing to major in engineering. In other cases, students were primarilymotivated toward engineering due to its potential to benefit society. And in a few cases, studentswith a very strong sense of social responsibility were leaving engineering to other majors.The paper will provide examples of these themes in the words of the students and discussimplications for the design of first year engineering courses that foster a sense of socialresponsibility in engineering students and help retain those most motivated by it.
Rulifson, G. A., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Thomas, W. (2014, June), Understanding of Social Responsibility by First Year Engineering Students: Ethical Foundations and Courses Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/23224
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