The meaningful inclusion of ethics into engineering education often seems to be a challenge in programs which are already packed full of technical content. Most often the ways in which ethics are included into engineering education relates to microethical issues such as ethical codes or personal professional conduct in the office. Macroethical topics, such as the profession’s ethical obligations around climate change or sustainability, are less common and the ways in which macroethics are included in engineering courses has not been well studied.
Two surveys were developed to explore the ways in which faculty teach students about macroethical issues; one focused on curricular settings and the other on co-curricular settings. Participants were asked to describe general topics that they covered in their respective settings and then to describe in detail the ways in which they include the societal impacts of engineering in a single course or co-curricular activity including specific topics, educational approaches and assessment tools. At the end of the survey, participants were asked in a free-response question to “Please share your thoughts about the education of engineering students regarding broader impacts and ethical issues.” This paper focuses on faculty response to this question.
The surveys were distributed nationally to faculty who teach engineering or mentor engineering related co-curricular activities; combined, 1462 responses were received. Out of these, 406 people wrote in a response to the open-ended question. These responses were coded using emergent, thematic coding. The analysis of these codes highlighted four main themes: challenges, goals/opportunities, topics, and current practices. Examples of challenges that were discussed include faculty having a limited knowledge or training about how to teach ethics or that ethics education is currently taught in ways that are too black and white and more nuanced topics should be included. Some goals or opportunities that faculty talked about indicate that students should receive a broader exposure to the societal impacts of engineering and that students should learn how to identify and negotiate work related ethical dilemmas. Examples of topics that were discussed include justice and community development contexts. Finally, in talking about current practices, some faculty focused on engineering service opportunities or experiential learning as effective approaches. In the final paper, frequency distributions of codes, statistical differences by demographic, and inter-rater reliability will be presented and discussed further.
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