Development and Evaluation of a Model to Assess Engineering Ethical Reasoning and Decision Making

TitleDevelopment and Evaluation of a Model to Assess Engineering Ethical Reasoning and Decision Making
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRudnicka, EA
AbstractSeveral ethical decision making models have been developed over the last twenty years. Past research has attempted to evaluate these models by assessing numerous factors potentially linked to the decision process involving ethical issues. Past research studying ethical decision making in organizations has focused on the business perspective and on individual decision making. Little empirical research has focused on teams' ethical decision making in engineering and none (to the author's knowledge) have studied the process of ethical decision making by engineers. For this research two primary models have been adopted: Jones's Synthesis of Ethical Decision Making model and the Harris, Pritchard, and Rabins (HPR) Model widely used in engineering. These models were combined along with factors cited in the literature to form a proposed Ethical Decision Making in Engineering Model. Using this model an experimental study involving both individuals and teams of engineering students solving two ethical dilemmas of different moral intensity was used to: (1) investigate whether engineering student teams make "better" decisions than individual engineering students, (2) evaluate the processes used by the individuals and teams to resolve the dilemmas, (3) and assess variables that potentially affect the quality of the resolution and the quality of the decision process.From this research, the analysis of the team decision making process and its outcomes has enabled the researcher to identify key factors that play a role in engineering ethical decision making, as well as identify potential improvement areas for engineering ethics education. In general, students who have had an engineering ethics course perform better (in teams or as individuals) than students who did not have engineering ethics course for an engineering dilemma with moderate moral intensity; and teams outperformed individuals on the Resolution attribute and spent more time on Analysis and Recognition of Dilemma attributes. Further, the derived regression analysis models showed that having had an engineering ethics course, working in teams, work experience, being female, the type of engineering major, and the dilemma's moral intensity are significant predictors of the overall Resolution as measured by the report quality.