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Which Factors are Correlated with Engineering Students' Expectations of Ethical Issues?

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Awareness, Expectations, and Recognition of Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Rockwell Franklin Clancy III University of Michigan, Shanghai Jiao Tong Joint Institute

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Rockwell F. Clancy is a lecturer in engineering ethics and philosophy at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong Joint Institute, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and has acted as a long-term educational, setting up a course and writing a corresponding textbook with Heinz Luegenbiehl on global moral issues for engineers. His research and teaching interests include engineering ethics, philosophy of technology, Chinese philosophy, political philosophy, and science, technology, and society studies. Rockwell completed his PhD at Purdue University, West Lafayette, MA at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, and BA at Fordham University, New York.

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Joanna Ruth Sessford The Sino-British College, USST

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Dr Joanna Sessford is an engineering lecturer at the Sino-British College, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. She completed both her PhD and BEng at The University of Liverpool, UK. She was awarded a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching from Curtin University of Technology, Australia.

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Longfei An Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

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Longfei An is currently a PhD student in Business Management (Media Management) from Laboratory of Social Cognitive and Decision-making Studies, Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He received his B.S. Degree in Applied Psychology from Jiangsu Second Normal University, and M.A. Degree in Applied Psychology from Hangzhou Normal University. His research interests include Social Cognition and Cultural Psychology by methods of Cognitive Neuroscience.

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Yan Ge Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

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PhD from University of Pittsburgh

Distinguished Professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Director,Laboratory of Social Cognitive and Decision-making Studies, Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Professor, School of Media and Design, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Professor, Institute of Social Cognitive and Behavioral Science,Shanghai Jiao Tong University

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Our presentation discusses a project exploring correlations between engineering students’ anticipations of ethical issues and other factors, including, for example, past education, work experience, instructor conduct, etc. On this basis, recommendations are made for improving engineering ethics education. This project is motivated by the importance of ethical conduct by engineers and research regarding the efficacy of ethics education.

For better and worse, engineers and the technologies with which they work profoundly impact human life and the environment. Towards this end, it is important that engineers act in an ethical manner.

However, recent findings in engineering education1,2, ethics3,4, and psychology5 call into question the efficacy of teaching ethics: Traditional approaches to ethics do not seem to have their intended effects, of more ethical actions. A growing body of literature shows unethical actions result less from individuals making decisions to act unethically and more from an inability to see choices as having ethical import, resulting in many cases from biases based on human psychology and environmental factors.5

Based on previous empirical studies regarding engineering students’ knowledge of and views about ethics6,7, this paper presents the findings of a study aimed at determining which factors are correlated with engineering students’ expectations of confronting ethical issues.

Theoretically, individuals who anticipate being faced with ethical issues and conflicts would be better aware of the ethical dimensions of situations and, therefore, better capable of employing ethical reasoning and acting in an ethical manner. Hence, the goal of this research is to identify which factors might have an effect on students’ expectations of facing ethical issues, examining, for example, past education, work experience, instructor conduct, etc.

Our presentation discusses the results of this research and, on this basis, makes recommendations regarding how to improve ethics education in general and engineering ethics education specifically.

References 1. Holsapple, M., et al. (2011). “We can’t get no satisfaction!: The relationship between students’ ethical reasoning and their satisfaction with engineering ethics education.” Paper presented to the Association for the Study of Engineering Education.

2. Stappenbelt, B. (2012). “Ethics in Engineering: Student Perceptions and their Professional Identity Development.” Journal of Technology and Science Education, 3 (1) 86-93.

3. Schwitzgebel, E. (2009). “Do Ethicists Steal More Books?” Philosophical Psychology 22:711–25.

4. Schwitzgebel, E. (2009). “Are Ethicists Ethical?” The Philosopher’s Zone, audio interview. 2009/2645717.htm.

5. Bazerman, M. & Tenbrunsel, A. (2013). Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

6. McGinn, R. (2013). “‘Mind the Gaps’: An Empirical Approach to Engineering Ethics, 1997-2001.” Science and Engineering Ethics 9, 517-542.

7. Clancy, R., Zheng, G., and Hung, D. (2016). “An empirical, comparative approach to engineering ethics (education) in international and cross-cultural contexts A study concerning Chinese engineering students’ knowledge of and views concerning contents and concepts related to engineering ethics.” American Society of Engineering Education 2016 International Forum.

Clancy, R. F., & Sessford, J. R., & An, L., & Ge, Y. (2017, June), Which Factors are Correlated with Engineering Students' Expectations of Ethical Issues? Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29124

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