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Author: Joseph R. Herkert
The author discusses the pros and cons of pedagogical trends and curriculum models for teaching engineering ethics.
In the past two decades, many changes have been made in engineering education, including a growing awareness of the importance of ethics and social responsibility to engineering. Prompted in part by political controversy over the social implications of technology and the changing educational standards promoted by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), engineering educators have begun to take seriously the challenge of preparing professionals who are both technically competent and ethically sensitive.
This is not to say that required courses in engineering ethics have become the norm. Stephan (1999) determined that nearly 70 percent of ABET-accredited institutions have no ethics-related course requirement for all engineering students. Although 17 percent of institutions do have one or more required courses with ethics-related content, these courses are not usually on engineering ethics per se, but on philosophy or religion or other subjects. Nevertheless, engineering ethics has begun to make its mark in engineering curricula as evidenced by required courses at some institutions, across-the-curriculum ethics initiatives, and numerous elective courses.
Content of Engineering Ethics Instruction
Davis (1999b) succinctly describes the hoped-for learning outcomes of teaching engineering ethics: