To help the engineering community tackle challenges to infusing ethics in engineering programs, the NAE Center for Engineering Ethics and Society (CEES) held a follow-on workshop on January 11-12, 2017 to its 2016 report, Infusing Ethics into the Development of Engineers: Exemplary Education Activities and Programs. This workshop convened current and emerging leaders in ethics and engineering who are working to improve the ethical development of engineering students at a workshop to (1) share their work, experiences, and lessons learned; (2) discuss strategies for overcoming institutional and cultural challenges; and (3) develop plans and collaborations for advancing efforts to infuse ethics into the development of engineers.
Recent research on instructional and cultural challenges for infusing ethics in engineering instruction has begun to identify issues, suggest strategies, and test approaches to changing institutional culture. In addition, scholars who have worked to infuse ethics have invaluable lessons to share from their experiences. Practicing engineers, engineering educators, and engineering ethics scholars had both informal and guided opportunities to strategize and develop plans for incorporating ethics in engineering curricula. Information, expertise, mentoring, and facilitated discussions and collaboration at the workshop aimed to help attendees advance their work and develop effective plans for their own institutions. Ultimately, these attendees will form the basis for a cohort of leaders and agents of change across the United States.
The CEES advisory group invited and reviewed applications from teams of 2–4 individuals—faculty, administrators, and professors of practice—actively working on strategies and plans for incorporating ethics into the curriculum and culture of engineering education. The teams were asked to describe their innovative activities, approaches, and strategies—current or planned—for overcoming institutional or cultural challenges to infusing ethics in the development of engineers. Representation was sought in attendees’ range of engineering disciplines, teaching levels (bachelor’s and graduate), and institutions (from liberal arts colleges to large public universities as well as minority-serving institutions).
Attendees were selected for both the innovativeness and the potential impact of their activity. Evidence of their participation in faculty development relevant to teaching and learning was also considered. Of 43 teams that applied, 16 interdisciplinary teams from 15 universities were invited to attend.
In addition, speakers with a range of expertise were asked to present and discuss work relevant to incorporating ethics into the engineering curriculum, including speakers with insights from sociology and anthropology, professional engineers, representatives from professional societies, program directors, among others.
The workshop was organized by the CEES advisory group based on a model created by the NAE Frontiers of Engineering Education program. Workshop activities, some running concurrently, included the development and refinement of team plans, a poster session, panel sessions of invited speakers, affinity group discussions, a working dinner with focused topics of discussion, and opportunities for feedback during and after the workshop.
The workshop began with two panel sessions to identify effective practices and scholarship on two connected topics: making engineering ethics relevant to students and supporting faculty in integrating ethics into engineering education. Each of these panels began with a set of presentations detailing the relevant work of the panelist, followed by a moderated question and answer session, allowing attendees to more deeply engage. Afterward, an informal poster session encouraged participants to network and begin to make connections to their own projects and efforts.
Attendees then divided into nine elective affinity groups for discussions moderated by members of the CEES advisory group. The groups’
themes, listed below, were based on input from teams during the application process:
- Influencing the Engineering Mindset and Culture;
- Handling Ethics in the Classroom;
- Approaches for Building Institutional Buy-in and Support;
- Approaches for Building and Developing Faculty Capacity;
- Addressing the False Division between Technical and Nontechnical;
- Strategies and Approaches for Evaluating Ethics Education;
- Curricular Approaches and Issues of Scaling Up and Across Institutions;
- Placing Ethics within Existing Engineering Tools and Practices; and
- Teaching Ethics to an International and Multicultural Group.
The group discussions began with attendees’ reflections on ideas to be explored during the session, followed by a guided discussion of prepared questions developed by the CEES advisory group in advance of the workshop, based on suggestions from attendees. Representatives of each affinity group reported on the group discussions the following morning.
A panel discussion then summarized the workshop discussions, identifying opportunities and potential next steps, before the final plenary session.
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