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Whose Words Can We Trust?: Prime's Modules For Teaching And Assessing Undergraduate Learning In Information Ethics

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Wider Contexts of Ethics for Engineers

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1470.1 - 10.1470.9



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Paper Authors

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D'Arcy Randall

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Hillary Hart

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Whose Words can we Trust?: PRiME’s Modules for Teaching and Assessing Undergraduate Learning in Information Ethics

Hillary Hart, D’Arcy Randall Department of Civil Engineering/ Department of Chemical Engineering The University of Texas at Austin

Most undergraduate engineering programs in the United States face a common problem in designing curricula that develop students’ professional responsibilities as well as their mathematical, scientific, and technical skills. As Thomas K. Grose explains,1 ABET’s EC 2000 standards, which require that graduates possess such skills as “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility,”2 pose particular challenges to engineering faculty, who typically resist the kind of course content associated with liberal arts. Grose also notes a complementary “hurdle” of humanities and social science professors’ reluctance to form interdisciplinary teams with engineers.

At the University of Texas at Austin, however, humanities-trained faculty in the College of Engineering are joining forces to create teaching modules that could be used not only in their own communications courses, but also in technical classes by their engineer colleagues. Funded by the Chair of Free Enterprise, the Professional Responsibility Modules for Engineering (PRiME) project aims to facilitate the integration of such topics as Ownership of Information, Credibility of Sources, Teamwork, and Leadership into existing courses. These topics all fall under the umbrella of “Professional Responsibility,” and it is envisaged that other topics, such as Environmental Responsibility, will be added later. This paper focuses on the development of PRiME’s Ownership of Information and Credibility of Sources modules. These modules were designed in the fall of 2004 and will be tested in the spring of 2005.

The developers of PRiME—Hillary Hart, D’Arcy Randall, Christy Moore, Mark Carpenter, and Randi Voss—teach in different engineering departments, but they share a common undergraduate course, Engineering Communications, which is required throughout the College of Engineering. Different departments use the Engineering Communications course in different ways, but all versions are designed to address ABET Criteria d, f, g, h, i, and j -- the criteria concerned with professional non-technical skills. These classes train students in writing and presenting, and all require a research project.

Topics for the PRiME modules grew out of this common undergraduate course. Growing national concern over student cheating,3 the impact of the Internet on student research,4 and the tendency of engineering students at UT Austin to “place out” of freshman-level courses that teach research methods and academic integrity prompted PRiME developers to create two initial modules devoted to helping students learn to assess the credibility of sources and to avoid plagiarism. Learning to assess the credibility of sources is a crucial skill for undergraduate “millennials,” who are accustomed to finding instant, and often dubious, information on the Internet. For engineering students, instances of plagiarism arise not only from academic

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright©2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Randall, D., & Hart, H. (2005, June), Whose Words Can We Trust?: Prime's Modules For Teaching And Assessing Undergraduate Learning In Information Ethics Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14525

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