Using Student Engagement to Relocate Ethics to the Core of the Engineering Curriculum

TitleUsing Student Engagement to Relocate Ethics to the Core of the Engineering Curriculum
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSunderland, ME
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Date PublishedJun-04-2014
ISSN Number1353-3452
AbstractOne of the core problems with engineering ethics education is perceptual. Although ethics is meant to be a central component of today’s engineering curriculum, it is often perceived as a marginal requirement that must be fulfilled. In addition, there is a mismatch between faculty and student perceptions of ethics. While faculty aim to communicate the nuances and complexity of engineering ethics, students perceive ethics as laws, rules, and codes that must be memorized. This paper provides some historical context to better understand these perceptual differences, and suggests that curriculum constraints are important contributing factors. Drawing on the growing scholarship of student engagement approaches to pedagogy, the paper explores how students can be empowered to effect change in the broader engineering curriculum through engineering ethics. The paper describes a student engagement approach to pedagogy that includes students as active participants in curriculum design—a role that enables them to critically reflect about why ethics is a requirement. Including students in the process of curriculum design leads students to reframe ethics as an integrative tool with the capacity to bring together different engineering departments and build bridges to non-engineering fields. This paper argues that students can and should play an active and important role in relocating ethics from the periphery to the core of the engineering curriculum.