A Systematic Literature Review of US Engineering Ethics Interventions

Science and Engineering Ethics 24 (2):551-583 (2018)
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Abstract

Promoting the ethical formation of engineering students through the cultivation of their discipline-specific knowledge, sensitivity, imagination, and reasoning skills has become a goal for many engineering education programs throughout the United States. However, there is neither a consensus throughout the engineering education community regarding which strategies are most effective towards which ends, nor which ends are most important. This study provides an overview of engineering ethics interventions within the U.S. through the systematic analysis of articles that featured ethical interventions in engineering, published in select peer-reviewed journals, and published between 2000 and 2015. As a core criterion, each journal article reviewed must have provided an overview of the course as well as how the authors evaluated course-learning goals. In sum, 26 articles were analyzed with a coding scheme that included 56 binary items. The results indicate that the most common methods for integrating ethics into engineering involved exposing students to codes/standards, utilizing case studies, and discussion activities. Nearly half of the articles had students engage with ethical heuristics or philosophical ethics. Following the presentation of the results, this study describes in detail four articles to highlight less common but intriguing pedagogical methods and evaluation techniques. The findings indicate that there is limited empirical work on ethics education within engineering across the United States. Furthermore, due to the large variation in goals, approaches, and evaluation methods described across interventions, this study does not detail “best” practices for integrating ethics into engineering. The science and engineering education community should continue exploring the relative merits of different approaches to ethics education in engineering.

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