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  1. Most engineering ethics education is segregated into particular courses that, from a student’s perspective, can feel disconnected from the technical education at the center of their programs. In part because of this disconnect, several immersive programs designed to train engineering students in socio-technical systems thinking have emerged in the U.S. in the past two decades. One pedagogical goal of these programs is to provide alternative ideologies and practices that counter dominant cultural paradigms that marginalize macroethical thinking and social justice perspectives in engineering schools. In theory, longer-term immersion in such programs can help students overcome these harmful ideologies. However, because of the difficult nature of studying cultural change, very few studies have attempted to provide a thick description of how these alternative cultural practices are influencing student perspectives on engineering practices. Our study offers a rare glimpse at student uptake of these practices in a multi-year Science, Technology, and Society (STS) living-learning program. Our study explores whether and how cultural practices within an STS program help students develop and sustain the resources for using a socio-technical systems thinking approach to engineering practice. We grounded our work in a cultural practices framework from Nasir and Kirshner [1] which roughly understands practice to be “a patterned set of actions performed by members of a group based on common purposes and expectations, with shared cultural values, tools, and meanings” ([2, p. 99] as cited in [3]). Our descriptions of collective enactments of cultural practices are grounded in accounts of classroom events from researcher fieldnotes and reflections in student interviews. Looking across the enactment of practices in classrooms and students’ interpretations of these events in interviews allows us to describe the multiplicity of meanings that students distill from these activities. This paper will present on multiple cultural practices salient to students we have identified in this STS community, for example: cultivating an ethics of care, making the invisible visible, understanding systems from multiple perspectives, and empowering students to develop moral stances as citizens and scientists/engineers in society. Because of the complexity of the interplay between the scaffolding of the STS program’s pedagogy and the emergence of these four themes, we chose to center “cultivating an ethics of care” in this analysis and relationally explore the other three themes through it. Ethics of care manifests in two basic ways in the data. Students talk about how an ethics of care is part of the STS program community and how the STS program fosters the need for an ethics of care toward communities outside the classroom through human-centered engineering design. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. As the field of engineering faces looming societal issues, it becomes particularly important to foster more “holistic engineers” with systems-thinking skills and an understanding of the macro-ethical impacts of their work (Canny and Bielefeldt, 2015) Macro-ethics here refers to the collective social responsibility of engineers as a profession, as opposed to micro-ethics, which concern activities within the profession (Herkert, 2005). However, college students studying engineering in the United States exhibit a decline in concern for public welfare over the course of their education (Cech, 2014) as well as a tendency to orient to micro-ethical issues over macro-ethical issues (Schiff et al, 2020). Scholars attribute these trends to ideologies pervasive in engineering spaces, such as depoliticization of engineering practice, technocracy, and meritocracy (Cech, 2014; Slaton, 2015). While Cech (2014) argues these status quo ideologies in engineering are maintained by a “culture of disengagement” that decreases interest in public welfare, Radoff et al. (2022) find indications that additional factors contribute to engaged students’ reproduction of such ideologies. They find, for example, instances of students in reproducing dehumanizing narratives regarding low-income communities, despite their enrollment in a voluntary program premised on cultivating socially responsible STEM professionals. This finding suggests that even students who remain “engaged” to some degree can reproduce status quo ideologies which Cech (2014) attributes to disengagement. One explanation as to why a macro-ethically “engaged” student may fail to attend to the social aspects of design follows a deficit narrative: a lack of knowledge or ability. We see this assumption in comparisons of students’ and experts’ design processes, where the areas in which students behave differently than experts are interpreted as areas that require additional instruction on how to behave more like the experts (Atman et al., 2008). This presupposition of students’ lacking knowledge or skills, however, backgrounds contextual or interactional factors. Philip et al. (2018) challenges such assumptions in their analysis of a classroom discussion on the ethics of drone warfare, which exemplifies students’ convergence to American nationalism, but with the framing that this convergence is interactionally created, rather than the result of individual students’ stable, dogmatic beliefs. However, because their analysis is limited to the scope of a single class discussion, the extent to which students’ performance is situated in said class remains unclear. In this paper, we attempt to understand the ways in which students reproduce ideologies dominant in engineering, as well as the situated nature of students’ ideological orientations in collaborative work. We consider a case study focus group from Radoff et al. (2022) where students reasoned through a hypothetical design scenario about a grocery store. We show how, despite many opportunities where problematic status-quo narratives are momentarily challenged, the students generally reject the challenges, not by arguing against them, but by positioning them outside the scope of their work. Further, we show how these moments of rejection are tightly coupled with attempts to emulate the multinational technology company Amazon. Finally, we use additional data to illustrate the situatedness of one student’s performance, and theorize the influence of Amazon as a “strange attractor” in this student’s situated reasoning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024