June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.1433.1 - 10.1433.12
Using the Engineering Method To Research and Write about Corporate Practice: A Model for Teaching Engineering Ethics
O. Christene Moore, Senior Lecturer Billy Vaughn Koen, Professor The University of Texas at Austin
Introduction The pressure to include, if not emphasize, the importance of ethics in the engineering curriculum is one of the most perplexing challenges facing engineering educators today. For one thing, it is difficult to decide where exactly to put ethics in the curriculum. With course requirements that are already bursting at the seams, it’s hard, as Michael Davis suggests in his article “Teaching Ethics Across the Engineering Curruiculum”1 to fit a free-standing course in ethics into the curriculum or to “make what it teaches seem a routine part of engineering.” And unless we are able to make it “seem a routine part of engineering” students will resist our best efforts. One strategy that Davis recommends is a pervasive approach to ethics infusing a discussion of ethics in existing courses at all levels.
The problem then becomes discovering the best pedagogical approach to ethics instructions in individual courses. Many feel caught between two possibilities: either tackling traditional texts, such as Plato or Kant or Mill, or skirting the difficult scholarship involved in teaching those philosophies by using case studies and scenarios that prepare students for the complexity of ethical decision-making. While the value of classical philosophy is undeniable, those systems of thought may not be the best strategy for solving engineering problems. And although there is no disputing the complexity of decision-making in engineering practice, understanding complexity does not necessarily make for a principled engineer.
In this article, we argue that the best resource available for discussing engineering ethics with undergraduates is the Engineering Method -- a problem-solving method that is unique to engineering. It is a method which, though widely overlooked, accommodates the complexity of engineering problems, allows students to feel that ethical decision-making is a “routine part of engineering” 1 and even contributes to the field of philosophy. In the summer of 2004 we began a pilot study in the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s required Engineering Communication course that required students to research corporate practice and evaluate professional standards of behavior using the Engineering Method as an analytical tool.
1 Davis, Michael, “Teaching Ethics Across the Engineering Curriculum,” The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science Case Western Reserve University: 2004.
Moore, C., & Koen, B. (2005, June), Using The Engineering Method To Research And Write About Corporate Practice: A Model For Teaching Engineering Ethics Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. https://peer.asee.org/14594
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