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Title: Early Career Engineers’ Views of Ethics and Social Responsibility: Study Overview
Amidst growing concerns about a lack of attention to ethics in engineering education and professional practice, a variety of formal course-based interventions and informal or extracurricular programs have been created to improve the social and ethical commitments of engineering graduates. To supplement the formal and informal ethics education received as undergraduate students, engineering professionals often also participate in workplace training and professional development activities on ethics, compliance, and related topics. Despite this preparation, there is growing evidence to suggest that technical professionals are often challenged to navigate ethical situations and dilemmas. Some prior research has focused on assessing the impacts of a variety of learning experiences on students’ understandings of ethics and social responsibility, including the PIs’ prior NSF-funded CCE STEM study which followed engineering students through the four years of their undergraduate studies using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. This prior project explored how the students’ views on these topics changed across demographic groups, over time, between institutions, and due to specific interventions. Yet, there has been little longitudinal research on how these views and perceptions change (or do not change) among engineers during the school-to-work transition. Furthermore, there has been little exploration of how these views are influenced by the professional contexts in which these engineers work, including cultures and norms prevalent in different technical fields, organizations, and industry sectors. This NSF-supported Ethical and Responsible Research (ER2) study responds to these gaps in the literature by asking: RQ1) How do perceptions of ethics and social responsibility change in the transition from undergraduate engineering degree programs to the workplace (or graduate studies), and how are these perceptions shaped or influenced?, and RQ2) How do perceptions of ethics and social responsibility vary depending on a given individual’s engineering discipline/background and current professional setting? This paper gives an overview of the research project, describing in particular the longitudinal, mixed-methods study design which will involve collecting and analyzing data from a large sample of early career engineers. More specifically, we will present the proposed study contexts, timeline, target subject populations, and procedures for quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. We will also describe how this study leverages our prior project, thereby allowing unique longitudinal comparisons that span participants’ years as an engineering undergraduate student to their time as an early-career professional. Through this project, we aim to better understand how early career engineers’ perceptions of social and ethical responsibility are shaped by their prior experiences and current professional contexts. This paper will likely be of particular interest to scholars who teach or research engineering ethics, social responsibility, and professional practice.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2024301
NSF-PAR ID:
10292553
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the 2021 American Society of Engineering Education Virtual Annual Conference
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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