June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.1649.1 - 26.1649.11
Using a Creative Fiction Assignment to Teach Ethics in a First Year Introduction to Engineering Course As identified by ABET, understanding professional and ethical responsibility (Outcome f) is one of the critical components of undergraduate engineering education. However, effectively teaching and assessing ethical decision-‐making continues to be a challenge. Programs implement a variety of approaches including dedicated courses inside and outside of engineering, as well as weaving ethical case studies throughout the curriculum. This paper describes an approach that combines the common practice of integrating an ethics unit into a first year introduction to engineering course with the innovation of a creative fiction assignment requiring the students to generate and reflect upon an ethical dilemma of personal interest, while exercising creativity and communication skills. The creative fiction assignment was conceived upon realizing that generating relevant ethical dilemmas with “grey areas” and no obvious “right answer” required a deep level of ethical understanding. At that point, instructors turned the tables on the students and provided historical case studies for reflection during class sessions, but asked the students, in small groups, to create their own fictional “case studies” as a culminating assignment. Students were encouraged to write a 1500 word creative short story, but other genres were approved. The assignment has been implemented with approximately 90 students over two years. The detailed assignment and grading rubric will be provided in the full paper. Student work went well beyond the instructors’ expectations, with students thoroughly enjoying the assignment and producing short stories in the genres of science fiction, post-‐apocalypse, and hard-‐boiled detective, as well as comic strips, a musical performance of rewritten song lyrics, a screenplay depicting a courtroom drama, and short films written, acted, and edited by the students. The level of ethical understanding in the works varied, but generally rose beyond the level achieved with simple reflections on case studies, which instructors found difficult to assess because there was less opportunity for variation. The assignment was also more enjoyable to grade for the instructors, and allowed for additional emphasis on and assessment of creativity and communication skills. Examples of student work will be provided in the full paper. The assignment was assessed qualitatively using reflections from the instructors and student comments on course evaluations, and quantitatively using student achievement measured by the grading rubric (average of 3.5 out of 4.0, roughly an A-‐ with our schema), and self-‐reported student achievement on the ABET outcomes covered by the course (average of 4.3 out of 5, indicating strong achievement of ABET f – professional and ethical understanding). For the future, instructors are reviewing the engineering ethics literature to develop a survey for more targeted assessment of the assignment (which will be presented at the conference for feedback), and are considering ways to push for higher levels of ethical understanding while maintaining the fun and creativity of the assignment. The authors look forward to disseminating this innovative approach to teaching ethics to other instructors, and discussing ways to improve future implementations and assessment.
Atwood, S. A., & Read-Daily, B. (2015, June), Using a Creative Fiction Assignment to Teach Ethics in a First-year Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24985
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