June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Educational Research and Methods
15.1297.1 - 15.1297.18
Understanding the Differences between Faculty and Administrator Goals and Students’ Experiences with Ethics Education Abstract
There is strong agreement about the need for effective ethics education in engineering academic programs, but students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in engineering continue to be unprepared to face the ethical dilemmas of professional engineering. This study uses qualitative data collected at 18 diverse institutions and employs the Transmission Model of Communication to examine ethics education. We investigate the ways that communication channels and noise contribute to discrepancies in the goals and perceptions of faculty and staff and the experiences of students in regards to curricular ethics education. We present data that shows that faculty and administrators consider a balance between the knowledge of ethics, ethical reasoning, and ethical behavior to be important, while students report experiencing ethics education that focuses almost solely on knowledge. The paper uses this discrepancy as an illustration to demonstrate the way the model can be used to identify factors that contribute to these differing perceptions. Our work provides support for the use of the model for understanding ethics education. Implications for educators are presented.
The need for engineering programs to educate students to be ethical engineers is well documented. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE), in a report on the competencies necessary for the next generation of engineers, suggests that future engineers will need to “possess a working framework upon which high ethical standards and a strong sense of professionalism can be developed,”1 and the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) has stressed the importance of colleges and universities providing students with effective ethics engineering education2.
Despite these calls, ethics education efforts have differing levels of success. In another report, NAE expressed concern that students are not being well-educated to understand the “social and ethical implications” of their technical skills3, and empirical evidence suggests that some of the practices used in engineering ethics education, including case studies and embedded ethics modules in other courses may have mixed results4, 5, 6. Further, researchers have consistently demonstrated that engineering students have high rates of cheating on academic work7 and are among the mostly likely students on campus to cheat8; this student cheating has been correlated with unethical behavior in a workplace environment9. So although the field of engineering is in agreement about the importance of ethics education, current methods of engineering education may not be adequate to prepare students with needed ethical competencies.
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