Across engineering disciplines, engineering design solutions frequently have major, long-lasting impacts on society. As technical innovation occurs in increasingly complex social exchanges, engineers are confronted with social and ethical dilemmas in their professional lives. Yet, many engineering curricula do not address ethical development in formal ways.
In our work-in-progress, we explore game-based playful learning in an engineering education setting. Giving students the opportunity to perceive and act on the wider social and ethical impacts of the profession - through multimedia simulation, role-playing games, case-based learning, and review of other, realistic cases - can give them opportunities to reflect on and identify complex situations in future settings, as well as a safe environment in which to explore, make mistakes, and discuss the ramifications of various decisions in authentic contexts. Ultimately the goal is to better prepare young engineers to tackle ethically current and future challenges.
Applying the playful interactions of card games, we have developed a beta version of a ‘Cards Against Humanity’ (CAH)-type card game focused on ethical, societal, and social questions specifically within an engineering context. The CAH model has been adapted in other educational settings. [Teaching Bad Apples, Betrus, Leifeld & Turcotte, 2016; Anthropology, Archeology, Sociology] As discussion of ethical, societal, or social scenarios could prove to be controversial, using a game-based approach may allow participants to engage in discussion of the topics and concepts in a more playful, abstract manner, allowing freer responses that reveal their own biases and assumptions, subsequently permitting a more meaningful exploration of the topics, as they are safely confined within a game environment.
The primary purpose of the card game would be to orient students to the topic of Ethics in Engineering and activate their prior knowledge about dilemmas that highlight the role of engineers in ethical decision-making. A secondary purpose would be to raise examples of bias and assumptions about problem solving in engineering that may constrain, impact, affect, or influence the thinking of individuals or teams as they work on large-scale complex projects. It is anticipated the game will provide content for a wide range of ethics discussion during debriefing after game play. Compared with direct instruction, playful learning may also nurture student creativity and engage a wider audience of diverse learners in active meaningful class discussion.
Card prompts are currently being crowd-sourced via a diverse group of engineering faculty, education faculty, and engineering students. In Spring 2017, the game will be play tested with engineering students at various levels (freshmen through senior). Play testing involves similar methods to focus groups. The proposed game rules and mechanics are explained and players are asked to think aloud as they interact with the game. Players can hear what their peers suggest and comment. The developer records the suggestions and moderates such that only 1 player is speaking at a time, to ensure all suggestions are recorded. Multiple playtests are conducted and themes that emerge across sessions are given priority for revisions.
Betrus, A., Leifeld, M. & Turcotte, N. (2016). Teaching Bad Apples. www.thegamecrafter.com/games/teaching-bad-apples
“Anthropology Games,”Anthropology Games, Web. 29 March 2016.
“Cards Against Archaeology,” Doug’s Archaeology: Investigating the Profession and Research, Wordpress.com, 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 March 2016. https://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/cards-against-archaeology/
“Cards Against Sociology,” The Society Pages, W.W. Norton & Co., Web. 29 March 2016. https://thesocietypages.org/cards-against-sociology/
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.