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What Can We Learn from Character Education? A Literature Review of Four Prominent Virtues in Engineering Education

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Reimagining Engineering Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

28

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35497

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35497

Download Count

630

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Paper Authors

biography

Jessica Koehler Wake Forest University

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Dr. Jessica Koehler is a Postdoctoral Assistant for the Wake Forest Department of Engineering supporting with the development and assessment of character and ethics education in the engineering program. Since 2015 until her current position at Wake Forest she worked as the Director of Research at a youth development non-profit, The Future Project, which has worked with tens of thousands of underserved high school students nationwide to support their development of purpose, agency, hope, and resilience. Prior to this, she spent a decade as a STEM educator (mostly K-12). Her primary interests are in bridging research to practice to create deeply meaningful and impactful educational experiences. Jessica completed her PhD in Adolescent Motivational Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 2017. She also has a BA in Biochemistry from The Colorado College, and an MS in Chemistry from The University of Louisville

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Olga Pierrakos Wake Forest University

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Dr. Olga Pierrakos is Founding Chair and Professor of the new Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University - a private, liberal arts, research institution. As one of the newest engineering programs in the nation, we are building an innovative program aligned with the university mission of Pro Humanitate (For Humanity). We are committed to educating the whole person and the whole engineer with fearlessness and virtuous character. With inclusion being a core value, our engineering team represents 60% female engineering faculty and 40% female students, plus 20% of students from ethnic minority groups. Prior to joining Wake Forest University, Olga served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education and founding faculty of the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. As a 2009 NSF CAREER Awardee, her expertise and interests focus on recruitment and retention, engineer identity, PBL pedagogies, engineering design pedagogies, capstone design, learning through service, bringing real world problem solving into the classroom, etc. She also conducts research in cardiovascular fluid mechanics and sustainable energy technologies. She holds a BS and MS in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the joint program between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University.

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Michael Lamb Wake Forest University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9165-5229

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Michael Lamb is Executive Director of the Program for Leadership and Character and Assistant Professor of Politics, Ethics, and Interdisciplinary Humanities at Wake Forest University. He is also a Research Fellow with the Oxford Character Project. He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University, a B.A. from Rhodes College, and a second B.A. from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on the role of virtues in public life and the education of character in the university. He is a co-principal investigator on character-related grants funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Kern Family Foundation, and Lilly Endowment. Prior to joining Wake Forest, he helped to launch the Oxford Character Project to help graduate students in business, engineering, government, law, medicine, and other fields think about the role of ethics in their professions. He also served as Dean of Leadership, Service, and Character Development for Rhodes Scholars. He is currently working with the Wake Forest Department of Engineering to integrate character into the undergraduate curriculum and leading a university-wide program to educate ethical leaders.

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Alana Demaske Wake Forest University

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Alana Demaske is a second year graduate student at the Wake Forest University Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on personality factors related to well-being, including character, personal growth initiative, and psychological needs satisfaction.

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Carlos Santos Wake Forest University

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Carlos Santos is a first year graduate student at the Wake Forest University Department of Psychology. His research includes longitudinal measurement validity and developing personalized user-interface data tools.

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Michael D. Gross Wake Forest University

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Dr. Michael Gross is a Founding Faculty and Associate Professor of Engineering at Wake Forest University and is part of the team that is planning, developing, and delivering the brand new Engineering program. The Engineering department is viewed as an opportunity to break down silos across campus and creatively think about reimagining the undergraduate engineering educational experience, integration and collaboration across departments and programs, and how to achieve the motto of Wake Forest University: Pro Humanitate (“For Humanity”). Michael received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University, and his Masters and PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his research interests in the processing and design of materials and composites for solid oxide fuel cells and other energy technologies, Michael also has a passion for designing educational experiences that support student intrinsic motivation. In particular, Gross works to help faculty understand the types of motivations their students are experiencing and practical, effective strategies for making positive shifts in student motivation.

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Dylan Franklin Brown Wake Forest University

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Dylan Brown is an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University. In May 2020, he will graduate with an Honors B.A in Philosophy. He has worked as a research assistant for both the Wake Forest Department of Engineering and the newly launched Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University. Dylan's undergraduate research is focused on forgiveness as a virtue and the intersection of virtue and applied ethics. In 2020-21, he will serve as a Research Fellow with the Program for Leadership and Character.

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Abstract

The complexity of problems that engineers address requires knowledge, skills, and abilities that extend beyond technical engineering expertise, including teamwork and collaboration, problem-solving, curiosity and lifelong learning, cultural awareness, and ethical decision-making. How do we prepare engineering students to develop these essential capacities? One promising approach is to integrate character education into the undergraduate curriculum. Using an established and commonly used taxonomy advanced by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, this paper explores the extent to which virtues are already incorporated into engineering education. Four prominent virtues in undergraduate engineering education are detailed in this paper: (1) critical thinking (an intellectual virtue), (2) empathy (a moral virtue), (3) service (a civic virtue), and (4) teamwork (a performance virtue). By conducting a literature review of these four virtues, we gain insight into how engineering educators already infuse virtues into engineering education and identify the gaps and opportunities that exist to enrich undergraduate engineering education through a virtue framework. Although virtues are part of engineering education, our findings reveal that most engineering educators do not explicitly describe these concepts as “virtues” and tend to treat them instead as “skills.” While virtues and skills are developed in similar ways, we identify four distinctions that reveal the added benefits of recasting and cultivating these capacities as virtues: 1) virtues, unlike skills alone, are necessarily ordered to morally good ends, 2) virtues have a motivational component that skills often lack, 3) virtues involve evaluating and addressing potential conflicts among values, and 4) virtues are interconnected and mutually reinforcing in ways that skills often are not. These conceptual distinctions have practical implications for undergraduate engineering education, enabling educators to draw on the pedagogical literature in character education to help students consider their values and develop the most relevant virtues across a four-year curriculum. This more comprehensive and holistic approach empowers students and future engineers to better navigate the complexity of real-world ethical decision-making and develop the virtues needed to serve the greater good.

Koehler, J., & Pierrakos, O., & Lamb, M., & Demaske, A., & Santos, C., & Gross, M. D., & Brown, D. F. (2020, June), What Can We Learn from Character Education? A Literature Review of Four Prominent Virtues in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35497

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