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Title: Comparing engineering ethics education across institutions using case study: Methodological and conceptual problems [Work in Progress]
Ethics has long been recognized as crucial to responsible engineering, but the increasingly globalized environments present challenges to effective engineering ethics training. This paper is part of a larger research project that aims to examine the effects of culture and education on ethics training in undergraduate engineering students at universities in the United States, China, and the Netherlands. We are interested in how students’ curricular and extra-curricular (e.g., internships, service projects) experiences and training impact their ethical reasoning and moral dispositions, and how this differs cross-culturally. To understand this, we are conducting mixed methods research longitudinally over four years to engineering students at our participating universities to gauge their moral dispositions and ethical reasoning skills and to measure any change in these. This work-in-progress paper, however, is not about the direct outcomes of this research project. Rather, it critically examines our own practices and methods in doing this research. We begin the paper by briefly introducing the larger research project and motivating the use of comparative, multi-institutional case studies as necessary for contextualizing, complementing, and interpreting quantitative data on ethical reasoning and moral dispositions. Because the conditions related to engineering ethics education differ widely per participating institution for institutional (and also likely cultural) reasons, interpreting and analyzing quantitative survey data will require understanding contextual conditions of education at each institution. Comparative case studies can supply missing contextual information to provide a more complete picture of the engineering ethics educational contexts, strategies, and practices at each of the participating universities. However, in considering how to design and conduct these case studies, we realized we were operating under certain assumptions such as ethics in engineering as separate (and separable from) the “real,” or technical engineering curriculum. These assumptions have been widely problematized in engineering ethics education (Cech, 2014; Tormey et al. 2015; Polmear et al. 2019); they are assumptions that we in our teaching and research attempt to dispel. Our paper considers (and invites discussion on) the broader implications of methodological design in conducting cross-cultural multi-sited case studies in engineering ethics education research. It explores models for designing and conducting our case studies so as not to reproduce pernicious ideas about social and ethical issues in engineering as subsidiary “interventions” in the “actual,” (i.e., technical) curriculum. More generally we discuss how engineering ethics education research methods can be harnessed to overcome this established division.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2202691
NSF-PAR ID:
10448510
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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