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Utilizing an Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument in the Curriculum

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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

23.1350.1 - 23.1350.10



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Paper Authors


Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Education Administrator of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests include human-centered design learning and assessment, service-learning, ethical reasoning assessment, leadership, and assistive technology.

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Patrice Marie Buzzanell Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16


William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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William (Bill) Oakes is the director of the EPICS Program and one of the founding faculty members of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has held courtesy appointments in Mechanical, Environmental and Ecological Engineering as well as Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He is a registered professional engineer and on the NSPE board for Professional Engineers in Higher Education. He has been active in ASEE serving in the FYP, CIP and ERM. He is the past chair of the IN/IL section. He is a fellow of the Teaching Academy and listed in the Book of Great Teachers at Purdue University./ He was the first engineering faculty member to receive the national Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and the recipient of the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Educational Excellence Award and the ASEE Chester Carlson Award. He is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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Utilizing an Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument in the CurriculumThe need for understanding and enhancing engineering students’ ethical development has beenthe subject of numerous publications and has been embedded in ABET criteria. Although thereare reliable and valid measures of individual ethical development (e.g., DIT2, see Rest et al.,1999), engineering ethics offers a unique site in which the confluence of disciplinary concerns,professional codes, industry regulations, accreditation and other Board considerations, andinsight into human issues enter design considerations. This paper describes curricular approachesfor developing students’ decision making regarding such ethical concerns. Specifically, weaddress curricular interventions in multidisciplinary project teams focused on real worldapplications.Our paper addresses the ways in which instructors can utilize an engineering ethical reasoninginstrument in engineering class or lab sessions. First, we present some background informationon an instrument that is in its final validation phases and that offers an engineering scenario-based assessment of individual students’ ethical reasoning. Second, we present how we canutilize this instrument for instructional exercises in three different class formats: large-lecture,team-based labs, and small-group interactive sessions. In large-lecture classes, we find thatstudents often engage in discussions by averaging their individual numerical responses toinstrument items without much discussion of content but with assumptions that the numbersrepresent similar ethical reasoning logics. The team-based labs offer opportunities to segue fromdiscussions of hypothetical scenarios into issues regarding team members’ and project partners’needs, interests, and priorities. Finally, small-group interactive sessions can focus on howstudents move from individual processing of ethical decisions to greater understanding of themultiple and often conflicting perspectives that characterize resolution of ethical challenges.Through such curricular strategies, students can develop deep insights into personal, team, andprofessional ethics.

Zoltowski, C. B., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Oakes, W. C. (2013, June), Utilizing an Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument in the Curriculum Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22735

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