Teaching ethics to engineers: Bringing academics on board

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Duffour, Bell, Soklay, and Haklay paper at fPET-2010

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Teaching ethics to engineers: Bringing academics on board

  1. 1. Teaching ethics to engineers: bringing academics on board Philippe Duffour, Sarah Bell, Christian Solberg and Muki Haklay UCL fPET 2010 Golden, Colorado
  2. 2. Engineering academics and ethics • UCL curriculum context • Ethics toolkit evaluation • Staff responses to teaching engineering ethics
  3. 3. Civil and Environmental Degree Programme Structure • Major reforms 2006 • Clusters – Tools – Mechanisms – Change – Context • Scenarios • Tutorials
  4. 4. Ethics in the UCL Curriculum • Ethics learning outcomes covered in ‘context cluster’ – Professional issues – Social context – Sustainable development • Royal Academy of Engineering Ethics Curriculum Map • Ethics toolkit for UCL academics 2009
  5. 5. Ethics toolkit • Extended learning outcomes • Integrating ethics in curriculum – Tutorials, lectures, scenarios, new courses • Resources for staff – Case studies – Codes of conduct – Reading lists
  6. 6. Evaluation of ethics teaching and toolkit 1. Are engineering academics engaged in engineering ethics? 2. Are engineering academics interested in teaching ethics? 3. What is the best way to teach ethics in our department? 4. Is our toolkit effective?
  7. 7. Research method • Independent research student • Anonymous interviews with staff • 13 of 36 responded so far – In progress – Self-selecting • Qualitative analysis and coding
  8. 8. Major themes • What is ethics? • Personal ethics • Why teach ethics? • How best to teach ethics?
  9. 9. …the engineering profession needs to sort of stand up for non-financial values, you know, on honesty, health and safety, fairness.
  10. 10. What is ethics? • Social purpose of engineering • Environmental values • Sustainability • Fairness • Bribery and corruption • Codes of conduct • Big questions and everyday interactions
  11. 11. Personal ethics • Career paths • Military research • Research partners • Research ethics • Few direct ethical dilemmas
  12. 12. …it’s probably more reprehensible to send out an engineer without ethical thinking than it is without mathematical thinking.
  13. 13. Why teach ethics? • Essential • Develop critical reasoning • Good decision making throughout a career • Students bring an ethical framework from their families and background • Teaching ethics by example • Teaching ethics is difficult
  14. 14. …what you need to do is make the staff conscious of ethical issues. I think it’s more important to make the staff aware so they can then incorporate it in their teaching where appropriate.
  15. 15. How to best teach ethics? • Integrated rather than separate course – Crowded curriculum • Core curriculum, not only tutorials • Lectures largely ineffective – Case studies – Projects – Personal examples • Poor uptake of the toolkit
  16. 16. Conclusions • Academics broadly understand engineering ethics • Personal experience of ethics is framed in research practice • Teaching ethics is important but difficult • Incorporate ethics into existing activities • Engineering ethics toolkit has not been utilised

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