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Work in Progress: Ethical Responsibility Formation of Students in a Nuclear Engineering Course Through Inquiry Learning

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

New Areas of Ethical Inquiry

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Minha R. Ha York University Orcid 16x16

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Minha is a PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, conducting a qualitative study of design engineers in cross-disciplinary settings. She aims to support the enhancement of socio-technical integration in engineering design, at the inquiry and decision making levels. Minha enjoys teaching and studying the ethics and equity issues in the engineering context. She is a regular volunteer in the community, mentoring girls and participating STEM outreach.

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Joshua Racette McMaster University

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Shinya Nagasaki McMaster University

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Nuclear engineering in Ontario context experiences close ties with public interests, through rigorous public consultation (e.g. site selection process) and regulation procedures. Simultaneously, the images of war and nuclear accidents have dominated the public discourse on nuclear engineering, often evoking mistrust and defensiveness in nuclear engineering students in relation to the public. Such perception and attitude pose hindrance to the principles and values of engineering ethics. We feel that nuclear engineering is an important part of advancing the goals of engineering ethics. The history of nuclear engineering industry and governance provides rich educational examples of risk ownership and management, long-term perspective on the public well-being, and the recognition of inequality and equity issues in stakeholder collaboration.

Our vision is to see the next generation of nuclear engineers who lead not only in technology development, but also in the decisions that affect our local communities and environment. In order to enhance student capability and commitment to sustainability ethics, we introduced inquiry learning to an existing third year undergraduate course (lectures and labs). We introduced key concepts related to the socio-technical nature of engineering design, and insights into the interacting systems that shape engineering practice, as well as social justice and sustainability problems. We surveyed the students and conducted in-depth interviews to understand how the course experience affected their development of engineer identity and responsibility. The survey responses and thematic analysis results are presented, to invite feedback from colleagues.

Ha, M. R., & Racette, J., & Nagasaki, S. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Ethical Responsibility Formation of Students in a Nuclear Engineering Course Through Inquiry Learning Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35631

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