The field of biomedical engineering (BME) aims to improve medicine through design. Improving human health and quality of life requires trained engineering students to bring knowledge and confidence when challenged with biomedical problems. Ample curricular resources guide instructors when helping students practice application of theory through problem-based and project-based learning; however, few content-rich, teaching resources exist for faculty to use when incorporating engineering ethics throughout a student's biomedical engineering undergraduate experience.
Biomedical engineering programs continue refining the implementation and assessment of ethics assignments as the recent 2018 ABET changes identify the ability to recognize ethical responsibilities as a necessary student outcome in the preparation of engineers that can make informed judgements. Despite this refinement, challenges of implementing engineering ethics in BME curricula still exist and can include difficulty in emulating ethical situations, ill-prepared or tentative instructors, peripheral or isolated ethics coursework, and varied engineering ethics education expectations.
The aim of this work in progress is two-fold: 1) to present a method used by a biomedical engineering department to develop embedded ethical reflection throughout its curriculum and 2) to present research methods and preliminary data on biomedical engineering student ability to articulate their own ethical inquiry from embedded student reflection.
Curriculum Development Methods: Using backward instructional design, a programmatic student outcome on ethics guided development of student learning objectives (mapped to both knowledge and cognitive learning dimensions). After a curricular gap analysis, embedded reflections were designed to parallel ethical topics throughout sophomore through senior courses. Biomedical engineering major courses targeted include biomechanics, biomeasurements, implantable materials, biofluids, and senior capstone. Integrated ethical inquiry and reflection within these courses address topics of animal use in biomedical research, data from human noninvasive measures, life cycle of medical devices, pharmaceutical pollution, and medical device recalls.
Research Methods: A student framework on ethical inquiry guided the development of biomedical engineering course assignments. The goal of the framework is to initiate BME student reflectivity to enhance their ethical reasoning on topics connected to course content. This work in progress will present preliminary results from sophomore-level student reflection assignments constructed using a modified DEAL (Describe, Examine, Articulate, Learning) model. Connecting animal use in biomedical research to an introductory biomechanics laboratory, this assignment specifically prompts students to participate in cognizant recognition of ethical knowledge gaps or ethical inquiry gaps and to use intentional reflection to improve their ethical reasoning. The student assignment, connection to course content and objectives, assessment methods, and preliminary data will be presented.
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