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Title: Exploring the Ethical Perceptions of First Year Engineering Students: Public Welfare Beliefs, Ethical Behavior, and Professional Values
In the engineering ethics education literature, there has recently been an increasing interest in longitudinal studies of engineering students’ moral development. Understanding how first-year engineering students perceive ethics can provide baseline information critical for understanding their moral development during their subsequent journey in engineering learning. Existing studies have mainly examined how first-year engineering students perceived the structure and elements of ethics curricula, personal ethical beliefs, pregiven ethics scenarios, institutional ethical climates, and particular political ideals (e.g., fairness and political involvement). Complementary to the existing studies, our project surveyed how first-year engineering students perceived public welfare beliefs, examples of (un-)ethical behaviors in engineering, and professional ethical values. Specifically, we adopted part of the well-known instrument developed by Erin Cech to assess how students perceived public welfare beliefs. An important goal of replicating Cech’s work is to examine whether students from a different cohort (i.e., 18 years after the cohort in Cech’s study, and from a more specialized institution than those in Cech’s study) hold different public welfare beliefs. We invite engineering educators to carefully examine how temporality might matter when considering the connections between previously conducted studies with their own ongoing projects. Our survey also asked students to provide an example of unethical behavior in engineering and possible ethical problems they anticipate in their future careers. Finally, we asked students to list three most important values for defining a good engineer. Such a question on professional ethical values responds to a gap in the engineering ethics literature, namely, that engineering students’ perceptions of professional virtues and values are not sufficiently addressed (especially among first-year students). This paper is part of a larger project that compares how students develop moral reasoning and intuition longitudinally across three cultures/countries: the United States, Netherlands, and China. We hope that findings in this paper can be useful for engineering educators to reflect on and design subsequent ethics education programs that are more responsive to students’ backgrounds and needs when they start their first year in engineering programs.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2124984
NSF-PAR ID:
10352820
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASEE Zone IV Conference
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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