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Title: Conceptualizing a Theory of Ethical Behavior in Engineering
Traditional engineering courses typically approach teaching and problem solving by focusing on the physical dimensions of those problems without consideration of dynamic social and ethical dimensions. As such, projects can fail to consider community questions and concerns, broader impacts upon society, or otherwise result in inequitable outcomes. And, despite the fact that students in engineering receive training on the Professional Code of Ethics for Engineers, to which they are expected to adhere in practice, many students are unable to recognize and analyze real-life ethical challenges as they arise. Indeed, research has found that students are typically less engaged with ethics—defined as the awareness and judgment of microethics and macroethics, sensitivity to diversity, and interest in promoting organizational ethical culture—at the end of their engineering studies than they were at the beginning. As such, many studies have focused on developing and improving the curriculum surrounding ethics through, for instance, exposing students to ethics case studies. However, such ethics courses often present a narrow and simplified view of ethics that students may struggle to integrate with their broader experience as engineers. Thus, there is a critical need to unpack the complexity of ethical behavior amongst engineering students in order to determine how more » to better foster ethical judgment and behavior. Promoting ethical behavior among engineering students and developing a culture of ethical behavior within institutions have become goals of many engineering programs. Towards this goal, we present an overview of the current scholarship of engineering ethics and propose a theoretical framework of ethical behavior using a review of articles related to engineering ethics from 1990-2020. These articles were selected based upon their diversity of scope and methods until saturation was reached. A thematic analysis of articles was then performed using Nvivo. The review engages in theories across disciplines including philosophy, education and psychology. Preliminary results identify two major kinds of drivers of ethical behavior, namely individual level ethical behavior drivers (awareness of microethics, awareness of macroethics, implicit understanding, and explicit understanding) and institutional drivers (diversity and institutional ethical culture). In this paper, we present an overview and discussion of two drivers of ethical behavior at the individual level, namely awareness of microethics and awareness of macroethics, based on a review of 50 articles. Our results indicate that an awareness of both microethics and macroethics is essential in promoting ethical behavior amongst students. The review also points to a need to focus on increasing students’ awareness of macroethics. This research thus addresses the need, driven by existing scholarship, to identify a conceptual framework for explaining how ethical judgment and behavior in engineering can be further promoted. « less
Authors:
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Award ID(s):
1926330
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10186850
Journal Name:
2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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