Teaching Ethics and Teaching Engineering - Some Parallels

TitleTeaching Ethics and Teaching Engineering - Some Parallels
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsHealy, T
Corporate AuthorsMarkkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University,
Access Date2011
Date Published1997
PublisherMarkkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University
KeywordsCase Study Method , education , ENGINEERING , Pedagogical Materials
AbstractCase studies are used frequently in the teaching of ethics, to engineers as well as non-engineers. The method has strengths and weaknesses. One strength of cases is that they provide a simple and straightforward way of discussing situations which pose ethical dilemmas. A weakness is that cases are almost always written quite briefly, with many details necessarily left out. As a result, some educators argue that cases are unrealistic, and do not prepare students for the richly-nuanced situations which they will encounter in the real world. Such cases are sometimes called "thin examples" because of their sparseness of detail. There is an intriguing parallel between the problem confronting the teacher of ethics, and that experienced by the teacher of engineering. In the latter case we also necessarily work with sparse models. Such models must be sufficiently simple so that they allow us to analyze the system in question, and sufficiently complex so that they capture as much of the detail as is required to accomplish a successful design. The parallels between ethical analysis and engineering design provide the teacher of engineering ethics with a way to help students arrive at a deeper understanding of ethical analysis and engineering design through a comparison of the two. This paper enlarges on the parallels between these two teaching disciplines, and explains how we can make effective use of these parallels.
NotesRemarks presented at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Southwest Section of the American Society for Engineering Education, San Luis Obispo, CA, March 14-15, 1997.
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