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Bottom-Up Ethics: Real World Training for Professional Practice

CSEP is partnering with Armour College's Biomedical Engineering Program and the Stuart School of Business to experiment with a new way of engaging students to ethics in research practice.

Most students have some exposure to ethics during their education; however, the concept of ethics is abstract and professional codes are intentionally general, which makes them impersonal. Research suggests that traditional ethics education involving lectures and/or case studies fails to engage students in meaningful ways. For students, opportunities to apply ethics training in real world circumstances are rare, especially for those who will eventually work in multiple disciplinary teams where members may have different levels of training in, and interpretations of, what constitutes ethical practice. As the pace of innovation increases and new areas of scientific practice emerge, conventional ethics education may be insufficient for situations that students will encounter in their professional careers.

This proposal team includes Christine Miller (Stuart School), and Elisabeth Hildt, Kelly Laas and Stephanie Taylor from the Center for the study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP). Based on lessons learned from a pilot event conducted in the summer 2017 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program led by Professor Eric Brey, in which this team applied an alternative approach that introduces ethics in situ and at the level of teams and lab groups, this proposes a similar approach. An extracurricular supplement will be designed for the current Introduction to the Profession (ITP) in the BME program that includes two components: a hands-on workshop event followed by a panel of industry professionals who will discuss situations they have experienced relative to a range of ethical issues. Participants will include Chicago members of the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association, with whom CSEP has a long-standing collaboration. The proposed approach will first invite students enrolled in BME 100 to participate with the support of the instructor of that course, Dr. Dhar, but the module can be adapted to any ITP course.

The team will work with designers Ciara Taylor and Samantha Dempsey who collaborated with Professor Brey and the Ethics Center on the REU workshop. Taylor and Dempsey are developers of a participatory approach to introducing ethics in the context of team-based projects. Along with collaborating on the development of the workshop event, they will help recruit individuals through their professional networks and prepare lectures for Illinois Tech students and faculty as part of their participation. Taylor and Dempsey’s initial project in developing ethics training was inspired by their experiences in professional practice. Their goal was to raise awareness among multiple disciplinary teams engaged in healthcare-related product and process design. They have facilitated workshops at multiple conferences and have since created another initiative which incorporates aspects of gamification, “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.”