Ethics Teaching in Undergraduate Engineering Education
Colby, Anne, Sullivan, William M., Journal of Engineering Education
This paper asks how undergraduate engineering education supports students' ethical development, broadly defined, in a diverse sample of U.S. engineering schools and offers an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of those efforts. The paper draws on observational case studies that were based on site visits to undergraduate mechanical and electrical engineering programs at seven universities or engineering schools in the U.S. It begins by proposing professional codes of ethics in engineering as a useful framework for thinking about the goals for student learning in the area of ethics and professional responsibility. The paper then discusses how and to what degree these goals are being addressed in the case study schools, with additional context provided through reference to published research in the field. The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening the teaching of engineering ethics and professional responsibility.
Keywords: engineering ethics, engineering ethics codes, professional responsibility
In his 2000 plenary address to the National Academy of Engineering, President William Wulf emphasized the public purposes of the profession, its contribution to human welfare, and its meaning in the context of the contemporary world-the core commitments that define engineering as a profession (Wulf, 2000). Other central commitments of engineers as professionals include protection of public safety and the environment; integrity in negotiating multiple, often conflicting, loyalties; and other standards of honest and responsible practice. We use the terms engineering ethics and professional responsibility as roughly interchangeable to refer to this wide array of issues and behaviors.
This paper addresses the questions of how undergraduate engineering education does and, in our view, should support students' ethical development in this broad sense of the term. The paper draws on observational case studies of engineering education, offering descriptive accounts based on site visits at eleven undergraduate engineering programs at seven U.S. engineering schools. We do not report quantitative results because any perceived quantitative precision based on this kind of sample would be spurious. In cases where precise figures would make an important difference in understanding how best to strengthen the teaching of engineering ethics, we hope that our articulation of the issues will be a stimulus to such future quantitative research.
We begin by proposing that professional codes of ethics in engineering provide a useful framework for thinking about the goals for student learning in the area of ethics and professional responsibility. We then offer observations about how and to what the degree these goals are being addressed in the undergraduate engineering programs we studied, extrapolating to the larger national picture where possible based on published literature in the field. We conclude with a review of the strengths and weaknesses of these programs with regard to teaching for ethics and professional responsibility and some recommendations for strengthening education for ethical development in engineering.
II. ETHICS CODES AS A WAYTO FRAME THE GOALS OF EDUCATION FOR ETHICAL DEVELOPMENT
Among the learning outcomes specified as essential by ABET accreditation criteria are "an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility, broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context, recognition of the need for and ability to engage in life-long learning, and knowledge of contemporary issues" (ABET, 2007, pp. 1). The guidelines do not specify particular formulations of goals within these broad categories nor particular strategies to meet the requirements, except to say that there should be a general education component that complements the technical content of the curriculum. Taken collectively, codes of engineering ethics are consistent with these ABET outcomes but provide useful elaborations of ABETs more general reference to "professional and ethical responsibility." For this reason, we believe that the codes provide a valuable framework for thinking about the goals of educating for engineering ethics and professional responsibility.
We turn to the codes in full recognition of the fact that explicit reference to formal ethical codes is not typical in engineering practice (Davis, 1991). In this, engineering contrasts with some other professions for which the codes play a more central role. For example, in law all practitioners are licensed and are therefore bound to uphold the profession's formal ethical code. In contrast, most engineers are not licensed and thus have not explicitly sworn to uphold any of the profession's various codes of ethics. Even so, the codes do reveal the kinds of ethical issues practicing engineers are likely to face and provide a working formulation of areas for which preparation is needed.
Engineering professional associations in the United States began adopting formal codes of ethics in the early twentieth century. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers first adopted a code of ethics in 1914. The adoption of ethics codes was part of the professionalizarion of engineering, an assertion of the profession's autonomy, and the privilege of self-regulation (Didier, 1999; Little, Hink, and Barney, 2007). Since that time, many American professional societies in engineering have adopted their own codes and updated them from time to time, as the context of professional practice has changed. In addition to these specialtyspecific codes, there is also a shared code of ethics for professional engineers (ABET, 2007). Because ethics codes originate from within the profession, they provide a good sense of the kinds of ethical issues practicing engineers in various specialties are likely to confront. For that reason, they can inform engineering educators about the kinds of issues and dilemmas graduates should be prepared to handle.
Particular codes of engineering ethics vary in their elaboration, and, especially when they are quite detailed, their constituent provisions can sometimes clash. The codes themselves cannot resolve these conflicts except to recommend that engineers understand and act according to the spirit of the code. Because ethical codes are necessarily indeterminate, learning what the codes say and pledging to follow them is not adequate preparation for ethical judgment and practice. The codes can be a valuable framework for helping educators think about educating for professional responsibility only if educators look below the surface of each provision, asking how students could be prepared to live and work according to that provision, what capacities and qualities are needed, and how engineering schools might educate toward them. In section III, we spell out what this means with regard to the central tenets shared by most engineering ethics codes. First, we offer a brief overview of those shared tenets.
A. Key Themes of Ethics Codes
Despite the differences among codes of engineering ethics in particular specialties, they all share a relatively small set of central values, which serve to organize a more elaborated list of specific injunctions. All of the codes acknowledge the overall mission of the profession as contributing to human welfare. In line with this mission, they articulate the overriding importance of public safety, health and welfare, and protection of the environment (Online Ediics Center for Engineering, 2007). They also stress the responsibility to be competent in one's work, to be careful not to misrepresent one's competencies, and to continue building one's competence through ongoing professional development.
Other provisions extend the theme of honesty to all of the engineer's professional activities and call for loyalty to both employer and clients or customers, which includes acting in their best interests (as "faithful agents or trustees") and maintaining their confidentiality. A theme of fairness includes respecting the intellectual property of others and avoiding conflicts of interest, discrimination based on race, gender, or religion, and unfair competition, which includes things like soliciting employment from clients who already have engineers under contract for the same work or offering gifts or other payments in order to secure work
Although the formal engineering codes of ethics do not generally spell out the complexities that globalization of engineering work has added to these issues, every one of these key topics delineated by the ethics codes is affected by the pervasive and growing influence of globalization (Oberst and Jones, 2004; Downey, 2005; Shuman et al. 2005a). This is acknowledged by the ABET reference to "understand[ing] the impact of engineering solutions in a global . . . context" and "knowledge of contemporary issues" (ABET, 2007, pp. 1), which include many issues that cut across national boundaries. The challenges of assessing the implications of one's work for human safety, health, and welfare and for environmental sustainability are exponentially increased when these are understood in global terms.
The responsibility to develop and maintain one's engineering competencies is also complicated by the need for inter-cultural competencies that have become essential to effective engineering work in many areas (Downey, 2005). Likewise, engineers working across cultural and national boundaries often confront conceptions of honesty, loyalty, fairness, conflict of interest, and the like that differ dramatically from their own. Among the "megatrends in engineering education" identified by Oberst and Jones in 2004 (p. 8) is a "growing social consciousness around the world that is making it imperative that engineering students understand the implications of dieir work" In this sense, a full appreciation of these central tenets shared by engineering codes of ediics requires understanding each of them in a global context.
B. Educational Implications of Key Themes
The profession's responsibility to the public is the first provision in virtually all codes of engineering ethics (Little, Hink, and Barney, 2007). The prominent place of this provision points to the importance of engaging students in thoughtful discussions of the meaning of engineering and technology, including its social meaning and context. This is likely to be new to most students, who arrive at college never having thought about the place of the profession in the world, the history of technology's impact, its potential for human benefit and harm, and the field's complex relationships with other social processes and institutions, both nationally and internationally.
Central emphases within the broader category of the engineer's responsibility to contribute to human welfare are the overriding values of public safety and protection of the environment. Engineering education cannot fully prepare students to handle successfully the most difficult situations in which their work seems to entail risks to the public, but helping students to understand and deeply internalize the core values of safety and environmental protection can sensitize them to these issues and flag for them the kinds of situation in which action of some kind may be necessary.
In order to be prepared for practice that embodies these values, students need to develop a keen awareness of the potential risks of their work, both immediate and long-term; they need to experience grappling with the inevitable trade-offs between safety or environmental sustainability and other concerns, such as cost and time pressures; they need help thinking about whether and how dieir responsibilities regarding safety and human welfare vary depending on their particular role in dieir workplace; and they need support in developing personal qualities like the courage needed to make and carry out difficult decisions. (For an extended discussion of the ethical dimensions of engineering judgment and decision-making in complex institutional contexts, see Pinkus, Shuman, Hummon, and Wolfe, 1997.)
The ethics codes also make it clear that engineering competence is inseparable from the ethical dimensions of the work Central commitments reflected in the codes are to develop and maintain one's competence, never to claim competence one does not have, and to contribute to others' competence by providing opportunities for professional development of the engineers under one's supervision. These provisions call attention to the fact that high quality work in engineering includes technical, ethical, and other "professional" dimensions (such as communications and teamwork skills), and that ethical competence is inseparable from other important competencies in the actual practice of engineering. As one faculty member interviewed for our study said, "To do engineering is to undertake an ethical activity. I mean, you could sort of ignore it, but it's not possible to remove it. That's like saying, What if we just remove gravity?' Can't do that, right?"
Other aspects of the codes are similarly rich in implications for engineering education. The codes point out the engineer's accountability to various interested parties, including employers, clients, and the public. Given the prevalence of team projects within engineering, students also need to develop a sense of responsibility, fairness, honesty, and loyalty toward their teammates and other coworkers. However, managing these various loyalties and accountabilities is not always straightforward because fidelity to and trusteeship for the individual's employer, teammates, or clients can conflict with each other and with the engineer's responsibility for public safety and welfare. As we have noted, managing loyalties and accountabilities is even more complicated when operating in a global business and policy environment.
III. GATHERING EVIDENCE TO ASSESS EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE: THE CARNEGIE FOUNDATION STUDY OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION
With this understanding, the educational goals entailed in preparing students for ethically responsible professional practice in engineering are extensive and challenging, even with the recognition that they cannot be fully achieved during the undergraduate years. In order to gain some sense of whether these goals are being addressed and where there seem to be gaps, we drew on interviews and observations conducted as part of a study of engineering education sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and directed by Sheri Sheppard, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University (Sheppard et al., in press).
In the first stage of that study, the research team collected ABET self-studies from 100 programs at 40 engineering schools. Using these reports as guides, the team selected U programs at seven engineering schools for closer investigation through site visits. These schools were chosen to represent geographic diversity within the United States and a wide range of institutional types, a small standalone school of engineering, a large public engineering school, several university-based programs, a Catholic university, and a school that serves many first-generation college students and transfer students. The study team visited electrical and mechanical engineering programs in these schools in 2002, interviewing more than 200 faculty and administrators and 200 students and observing 60 classes.
The interviews included questions about coverage of ethical issues in particular courses and in programs overall. We also visited courses that were designated in the department's self-study as fulfilling the ABET ethics requirement. In addition, we collected the syllabi from those courses. The interviews and observational data included information about mechanism of delivery (place of the ethics coverage in the curriculum), scope of coverage of ethical issues, and whether or not students were asked to complete graded or ungraded assignments in connection with courses or class sessions addressing ethical questions. In the following description of what engineering schools are doing to support students' ethical development, our central focus is on the seven schools in which we made these extensive site visit observations, but we also refer to schools and programs that we did not visit that offer useful illustrations of effective educational practice in the areas of concern.
IV. HOW DO ENGINEERING SCHOOLS EDUCATE FOR ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY: WHAT IS COVERED?
A. Ethics Codes
The coverage of key issues in engineering ethics and professional responsibility was uneven in the engineering programs we reviewed. Engineering codes of ethics are addressed, at least to some extent, in most (though not all) of the courses and modules on engineering ethics about which we collected information. Codes are also sometimes mentioned in passing in courses that do not formally address ethical questions. The depth of teaching about professional codes varies a great deal and is fairly minimal in most of the programs we reviewed. In one program, for example, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) code was distributed at an orientation lecture along with other program-related materials, with no evidence that it received any comment. In another program, students were guided to codes of ethics on the Web sites of professional societies. In programs where students typically satisfy the ethics requirement by taking courses outside the school or department of engineering, it appears likely that they could graduate without having been exposed to an engineering code of ethics.
At the other end of the spectrum, we saw programs in which students applied codes of ethics to case studies in graded assignments during their final (senior) year. Students were required to either write a paper identifying the relevance of one or more professional codes to a specific situation or do a presentation of a case focusing on the ethical issues involved. This is important, since studies of teaching and learning have shown that active engagement in articulating or applying new ideas is more effective than brief passive exposure in helping students understand and remember the material (Perkins, 1992; Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999; Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005).
B. First Canon of Engineering Ethics: Hold Paramount the Safety, Health, and Welfare of the Public
As we noted earlier, the first provision of most American codes of engineering ethics enjoin the profession to "hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public." Because the component parts of this injunction receive differential attention in schools of engineering, we will discuss them separately.
1) Public Safety: The engineer's responsibility for ensuring public safety is universally acknowledged as a key issue. In our site visits, it was the topic most likely to be mentioned by faculty who incorporate ethical concerns into their engineering science, laboratory, or design courses, as well as by those who teach courses or modules specifically addressing engineering ethics. As one design professor said: "I spend the first couple of weeks in graphics lecturing on design and the process and safety, which from an engineering standpoint . . . safety is 50 to 60 percent of ethics." Students we interviewed affirmed the emphasis on safety, frequently commenting on how thoroughly this core value has been woven into courses throughout the curriculum.
2) Environmental Sustainability: Another area of central and growing concern for many engineering faculty and students is sustainability. Many faculty work into their teaching issues relating to energy conservation, alternative energy sources, use of hazardous materials, and recycling of materials from obsolete products. Attention to these issues helps students understand that their work has real consequences for other people and the natural environment and, as engineers, they must take responsibility for those consequences.
3) Broad Public Mission of Engineering: We spoke to several faculty members at our site visit institutions who appreciate and convey to students the importance of practicing engineers' maintaining firm connections with the basic mission and broad impact of their work Some spoke of using service-learning and extra-curricular service projects to reinforce students' desire to use their work to contribute to human welfare, both domestically and internationally. These kinds of experiences can also expose students to the complexities of contemporary social problems and policy issues if the supervising faculty members use structured reflection, such as journals, essays, or in-class discussions, to connect the service projects to these issues.
We also talked with faculty for whom the meaning of what it is to be an engineer is grounded in an appreciation of the public mission of the profession:
What it means to be a professional engineer includes at least two things in my mind. One, to recognize that they are members of a community, that they just can't act alone. . .There are boundary conditions on making money, and that as a professional you don't just do everything that you're asked to do, you're not just a hired gun. The second thing is that you're not just a lone hired gun, that you have a responsibility not just to the professional society, but to society as a whole. And that the professional society as a whole has an obligation to society as a whole.
This conception of ethics and professional responsibility is inclusive of what some refer to as the macroethical dimensions of engineering. Joseph Herkert (2002), who stresses the importance of macroethical issues like public policy and the engineer as citizen, points to the challenges of supporting students' learning of macroethics and advocates the integration of engineering instruction with auricular programs in Science, Technology, and Society (STS), where practically feasible, in order to integrate technique with the social meaning and broader ethical context of engineering practice.
However, this did not appear to be a common practice in the engineering programs we reviewed. Even though we did encounter some attention to macroethical issues, few schools had instituted systematic programs to educate for this broad sense of professional responsibility. It appears that most engineering students do not engage in a significant way with STS programs or service learning, and engineering ethics is not usually taught with this kind of scope.
Our impression that the broad public purposes and implications of engineering receive relatively little attention in engineering education, aside from the important issues of public safety and environmental sustainability, is consistent with other published reviews of teaching practices in engineering ethics. Kipnis (1981), for example, surveyed the literature on engineering ethics and found that most texts limited the scope of "concern for public welfare" to narrower concepts of the public's immediate health and safety. More recent studies have reported similar findings. For example, Little, Hink, and Barney (2007, p. 2) conclude, based on their review of engineering ethics textbooks, that "the current approach to teaching engineering ethics often reduces the welfare of the public to situations of extreme crisis (such as being ordered to design an unsafe structure) or a platitude to be ignored."
Public safety and sustainability were not the only ethical issues we encountered in our observations, however. Many faculty we talked to said that they incorporate ethical issues into their classrooms by talking with students about cheating, plagiarism, and their institution's academic honor code. Research that shows the high prevalence of cheating among engineering students and the predictive value of that cheating for dishonesty in the workplace underscores the importance of this set of issues (McCabe, 1997; Harding et al., 2004; Finelli et al., 2007).
Some faculty members also find ways to connect academic integrity with ethical concerns that will arise in professional practice. This is important, because professional ethics in engineering goes well beyond the ethics of being a student. Faculty in our site visit schools said that they often talk with their students about questions of fairness and honesty that arise in publishing and other domains of intellectual property, drawing parallels between the institution's honor code and engineering codes of ethics. Others point to the relationship between honesty in data entry and reporting in labs and the potential for technical failure.
The faculty we interviewed and observed seldom mentioned fairness as a focus of their engineering ethics teaching, even though issues of fairness are represented in engineering codes of ethics. Fairness is one of a number of ethical issues that can come up naturally in connection with teamwork, which is a growing priority for many engineering education programs. Team projects and the teaching of skills for teamwork provide excellent opportunities to highlight, in an immediate and compelling way, questions of responsibility and reliability, loyalty to and concern for the group, fairness in distribution of burdens and rewards, and mutual respect and consideration among team members. These issues are often implicit in team-based activities, but, in our observations, we did not see them raised to a level of explicit concern and connected with questions of fairness in engineering practice.
V. HOW ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY ARE COVERED: CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY
A. Curricular Arrangements
Although engineering schools vary in the extensiveness and depth of their attention to ethics and professional responsibility, all those we reviewed can be characterized in terms of a small set of curricular arrangements. This is ture for both the programs in which we conducted site visits and also those for which we reviewed ABET self-studies and other documents but did not visit. In our research, we encountered three approaches to including these issues in the curriculum. All three are very widespread, and most engineering schools include two or even all of these approaches, at least to some extent. These three approaches are roughly aligned with the basic curricular approaches to teaching engineering ethics outlined by Herkert (2002).
* Stand-alone courses in ediics, generally courses on engineering ethics provided within the engineering school or courses on ethics and moral philosophy more broadly, provided by the philosophy department.
* Brief discussions of professional responsibility and ethics, most often references to public safety, incorporated wherever they arise naturally in connection with the subject matter of other courses. These discussions range from references to well-known cases of engineering failure to classroom or homework exercises in which students grapple with tradeoffs between potentially conflicting values such as cost and safety.
* Modules on engineering ethics and professional responsibility, typically consisting of two or three class sessions, most often in the capstone design course. Ethics modules may also be included in other design courses and in "introduction to engineering" courses, which are generally offered in the freshman year. These modules involve more extensive coverage of ethical issues than the relatively brief references to diese issues that are woven more organically into substantive courses.
Although strong auricular continuity in ethics coverage does not appear to be typical in engineering education, some programs do achieve a notable degree of coherence in this domain. (See, for example, Gharabagi, 2007.) We encountered several programs that introduce ethics modules as early as the freshman year and maintain continuity of emphasis on these issues throughout the undergraduate years. Ethics coverage in these programs typically begins with freshman year introduction to engineering courses and continues with courses that stress ethical issues in the context of analysis, laboratory, and design. The University of Michigan requires a freshman "introduction to engineering" course in which a broad range of ethical issues is introduced. This is followed by courses in subsequent years that pay particular attention to ethics, culminating in a fairly extensive ethics module in the capstone design course.
B. Case Discussions as the Central Pedagogy of Engineering Ediics
Whether in stand-alone ethics courses, ethics modules, or brief references to ethical issues within courses on other topics, the most prevalent means of teaching engineering ediics is the case discussion. Some classic cases have become so familiar that it is hard to graduate without learning about them, for example, the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse and the Challenger disaster. These cases typically involve a mix of normal human error, organizational failure, and individual violations of professional standards, bringing ethical issues together with technical and organizational issues.
At the simplest level, we observed historical cases mentioned or discussed in the context of lectures in engineering science and design courses. These cases illustrate the importance of care, technical precision, and honesty, what can go wrong when these standards are compromised; and how serious the consequences can be. When examples like this are threaded throughout the program, they impress on students the value of public safety and the connection between technical competence, professional standards, and human consequences. Since safety is mentioned frequently, students come to see it as a central concern or core value of the field. And if the stories of these cases are vivid and well told, they can be emotionally engaging and powerfully memorable. As one student said, "In our dynamics class we had an incredible section on ethics. We were talking about SUVs and rollover and all that. That had a big impact on me."
The limitation of this approach to using cases is that it does not require students to struggle with the trade-offs involved in actual engineering decisions or with the fact that the consequences of those decisions become clear only in retrospect. (See Dekker, 2006, for a discussion of hindsight and confirmation bias in cases that involve human error.) For that reason, brief mentions of cases of engineering failure are not sufficient for helping students learn to identify potential problems before they become obvious or to sort through conflicting priorities.
Some of our site visit faculty use both real and hypothetical cases, along with more active pedagogies, to take on these challenges. This can involve, for example, asking students to make choices about values issues in analytic problems before proceeding with their calculations, thus showing in a compelling way the inseparability of choices about values such as safety and cost from technical design and analysis questions. Hypothetical cases are usually short on details and context and thus much simpler than the problems students will actually encounter in their work But active engagement, even with simple cases, does help students experience the kinds of conflicts that often arise between values such as safety and affordability and the challenge of grappling with the kinds of tradeoffs practicing engineers have to make.
Another approach that we encountered is to have students develop case studies themselves, in which they analyze engineering decisions for ethical as well as technical quality. In the case of engineering failures, students are asked to articulate engineering principles that have been violated, discuss the relationship of the case to codes of engineering ethics, analyze the roles of the various participants in the incident, and grapple with issues of responsibility and both moral and legal culpability. When students actively work through the cases themselves, attempting to confront choices and consider the applicability of the ethical code, they come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the issues. As one student said:
I took the engineering ethics class. Others said that this is all common sense. We used case studies and scenarios. We were asked to decide how we would deal with the situation. A lot of times people changed their minds after the discussion and decided they were wrong. I think that is important and shows that it is not all common sense. It makes you look into the problem in more depth, and see that it is not obvious.
Wrestling with cases framed as moral dilemmas, either real or hypothetical, is also a staple of ethics courses offered through philosophy departments, which fulfill the ABET ediics requirement at many universities. These introductory ethics courses almost always teach the major ethical theories and apply these theories to the analysis of real and hypothetical cases tat represent ethical dilemmas. Courses of this kind teach students useful ethical concepts, such as principles of justice and human welfare and how to apply them to cases. They also give students practice thinking about moral conflicts, seeing that there are multiple considerations in these cases, positive values are sometimes in conflict with each other, and there are no easy answers, but that this does not mean that any opinion is as valid or justifiable as any other or that there is no way to make a case for one's position.
But there are also risks in relying on general philosophy courses as students' only systematic exposure to ethics. Especially when these courses are taught outside the school of engineering, there is a risk that students will not know how to connect what they learn to their own work even if they do practice applying the considerations of the theories to cases. Problem solving in ethics, as in other areas, involves more than the rigorous application of rules to cases. The resolution of ethical dilemmas involves judgment, and engineering students need practice with ethical problem-solving in engineering in order to develop that judgment (Minnich, 1991).
C. An Alternative Pedagogy: Community-based Learning
In addition to the case study (in its many varieties) as a signature mode for teaching engineering ethics, community-based learning (also called service learning) has emerged over the past decade as an increasingly important pedagogy used by engineering faculty to foster a wide array of important outcomes, including a sense of social and professional responsibility, ethical awareness and sophistication, and skill in negotiating the contexts of engineering work, including inter-cultural contexts both domestically and internationally (Tsang, 2000). In community-based or service learning, students participate in organized, sustained service activities that are related to their classroom learning and meets identified community needs. Students then reflect on that experience through activities such as class discussions or journal writing, articulating what they have learned about the social issues connected with their projects or the cultural, economic, or policy contexts of the work
In the past decade or more, service learning has become widely used in undergraduate education in many disciplines, and its popularity continues to grow (Stanton, Giles, and Cruz, 1999). In high quality service learning, the service projects or placements are challenging and well integrated with the course's academic goals, and the reflections are planned and implemented in ways that specifically support those goals. A number of studies have shown that students who participate in high quality service learning benefit both academically and civically (Sax and Astin, 1997; Eyler and Giles Jr., 1999; Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005).
In engineering education, service learning is essentially an arrangement and context for design experiences (Tsang, 2000). In a typical service-learning project, students design a product to meet an identified need in a low-income community or to help individuals in special populations. For example, these projects might create products for the disabled, such as improved wheelchairs or pageturning devices for quadriplegics. This often involves establishing collaborative relationships with non-profit organizations that serve a variety of community needs.
Like other design projects, service learning is a form of projectbased learning. It differs from other forms of project-based learning in that service-learning projects are specifically designed to contribute directly to the well-being of particular communities, individuals, or populations. Because of its emphasis on structured reflection that draws out the ethical, social, cultural, and professional dimensions of the work, community-based learning/servicelearning projects are especially well suited to supporting many aspects of professional responsibility, which project-based learning that is not service oriented may not address.
Service learning is used in design courses at all points in the undergraduate engineering curriculum. In Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, all entering students, including transfers, are required to conduct intensive community-based learning projects in New York City as part of their core engineering coursework Clearly, the projects students are able to carry out in their freshman year are technically much simpler than those carried out in senior design courses, which are the more typical sites of community-based or service learning. Some programs, such as the multi-year service-learning program Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), which originated at Purdue University, are planned so they will provide participating students with a long-term, sustained service-learning experience over the course of their undergraduate years (Coyle and Jamieson, 2000).
VI. ANALYSIS OF CURRENT PRACTICES
A. Strengths and Weaknesses of Current Approaches
Although our site visit sample was small, our observations during those visits were consistent with what we saw in the ABET selfstudies we reviewed and with other reports in the literature. Of course, in order to be sure that these observations apply to contemporary American engineering education more broadly, one would need to investigate these questions with quantitative analyses of data from large, nationally representative samples.
1) Extent of Coverage: In our fieldwork, we saw tremendous variation in the kind, amount, and intentionality of coverage of ethical issues. Administrators and faculty from some programs described mechanisms through which they think through their educational strategies collectively, introduce issues of professional responsibility and ethics in the freshman year, and carry them through during the entire duration of undergraduate study. But this kind of broad, intentional, planned approach to ethics and professional responsibility was rare. Few of the departments we visited seemed to establish explicit goals in this area or monitor and coordinate coverage. It was commonplace in our site visits for faculty, even department chairs, to be unaware of whether or how their program supports its students' ethical-professional development. Overall, a picture emerged of rather spotty and unsystematic attention to students' development of professional responsibility or ethics. Among the programs we reviewed, this area was seldom addressed in a systematic way that ensured a rich and comprehensive experience for all students.
This impression is consistent with quantitative studies of education for engineering ethics. In a national survey of U.S. engineering schools, Stephan (1999) found that only 27 percent listed an ethics-related course requirement, and he reports that 80 percent of the engineering graduates in his study attended schools with no ethics requirement. Since some students took their ethics courses in philosophy or religion departments, an even smaller percentage have taken courses specifically devoted to engineering ethics. In a study of undergraduate engineering students conducted by Shuman, et al. (2004), only 17 of the 120 students in the sample had taken an ethics course and none had taken a course devoted to engineering ethics per se.
Taken as a whole, the courses we reviewed that address engineering ethics touch on many of the issues represented in the professional codes of ethics, whether the codes themselves are mentioned or not. Unfortunately, most students seem to experience a rather small subset of those issues. Only a very few programs provide anything like comprehensive coverage of the many issues that were represented in the aggregate. Furthermore, since most departments do not track ethics coverage, they have no way of knowing how comprehensive their students' engineering ethics education is.
Based on our site visits, we were able to gain a rough sense of the relative thoroughness with which key issues in engineering ethics are addressed. To summarize, references to the importance of public safety were threaded throughout the curriculum in all of these programs, and case discussions often focused on safety failures. Attention to issues of environmental sustainability in engineering work was also widespread. Students reported having heard their professors talk at least in passing about the importance of honesty, both in the academic setting and in the profession, but concentrated focus on conflict of interest, deceptive business practices, or unfair competition were not in evidence.
Although the complexities of struggling with multiple competing loyalties were addressed in some case studies discussed in engineering ethics courses, this set of issues did not seem to be well represented outside those courses. Nor did we see much attention given to the responsibilities around competence that are represented in most engineering ethics codes: to continue building one's competence over time, whether through formal programs of continuing education or through mentored practice; to be careful to represent one's competencies accurately to potential employers and clients; and to help supervisees develop their competencies. Finally, though teamwork was used extensively in these programs, faculty seldom specifically highlighted the key dimensions of professionalism entailed in successful teamwork, including a sense of personal responsibility, fairness and honesty within the group, and a climate of respect and trust.
Most often, when ethical issues are introduced, the instructor points out the importance of the value or ethical standard, but students usually do not practice grappling with its subtleties or its potential conflicts with other key values. We also saw little explicit concern for providing engaging models of practicing engineers who represent inspiring images of professional identity. These are important gaps, since to develop to their full potential, ethically and professionally, students need models of integrity, multiple exposures to ethical-professional issues, experience thinking these through in particular cases, and sufficient practice to develop an engrained habit of seeing issues from an ethical perspective.
Even so, virtually every program we reviewed included some thoughtful teaching of ethics and professional responsibility. These provide useful building blocks for a more comprehensive approach. Meeting the full range of goals we have laid out requires engineering programs to make a significant commitment to this endeavor, bringing an intentional, systematic approach to creating a wide array of experiences that will help students develop a deeper understanding of the context and meaning of the work they will be doing, broad knowledge about the issues they are likely to confront in practice, more mature judgment about complicated situations, and a strong sense of professional identity grounded in high aspirations.
2) Assessment: Another weakness in education for ethical development in engineering schools is that, regardless of curricular mode, the ethical components of learning are less likely to be graded than other assignments, and students are not held accountable for learning this material. This is a problem. The practice of not grading this work, or treating it as pass/fail with little effort required to pass sends a message that ethical issues are not important and that standards of quality do not apply to the explication of those issues. Often courses that include significant attention to ethics are treated as "soft courses" with fewer exams and other assignments than their other courses. We know that in other fields students will treat ungraded assignments as expendable when time pressures are intense (Cooperstein, 2007). It stands to reason that this will be at least as true in engineering, which is notorious for its demanding workload and resulting time pressure.
Some engineering faculty who do not specialize in engineering ethics perceive the work involved in ethics modules and courses as essentially subjective and personal, so they are baffled at the prospect of establishing standards of quality against which it can be assessed. But, in fact, it is quite possible to do this, as indicated by the fact that humanities faculty routinely assess this kind of student work, offering evaluations and feedback on how to strengthen students' papers and presentations. This does not mean that there is one set of right answers to ethical questions. Ethics is like design in that there are multiple good solutions to a design problem, but this does not mean that all solutions are good ones. Whether the students are writing papers or making oral presentations, their work can be evaluated based on whether they have indicated an understanding of multiple factors to be considered, have made a credible case for their position, have identified the likely consequences of several alternatives, and so on.
In one of our classroom visits we had the opportunity to observe a student case presentation that illustrates several dimensions of quality in an engineering ethics assignment. The course we observed, Engineering Analysu, is offered to students in their final year in Carnegie Mellon University's mechanical engineering program. It is designed "to develop in the student the professional method of solving engineering problems in analysis and design through application of the fundamental principles of the engineering sciences (unpublished course syllabus)." Along with its focus on advanced analysis, the course also prominently includes case studies, graded group assignments, and technical analysis to highlight engineers' ethical dilemmas and responsibilities. Course objectives include "an ability to analyze engineering decisions, both other people's and their own, for technical and ethical quality and support their evaluation with reasoned arguments."
We observed a group of four students presenting a case study of the well known Quebec Bridge failure. They presented analyses that addressed the history of the case, the design issues and problems, the responsibilities of the various participants in the case and who was to blame for the failure, along with the resulting legal judgment made by the Canadian court. The polished 30-minute student presentation relied on detailed historical data as well as articulation of the engineering principles that had been violated, ultimately resulting in the structural failure. Members of the group led the class in a lively discussion of who was to blame as well as articulating their own positions on that question, along with supporting arguments. One member of the group explained that graduates of engineering programs in Canada still wear iron rings, which used to be made from the metal of the failed bridge, as a reminder of their obligation to the profession and society. The student had one of these rings, which he had borrowed from a Canadian friend.
In analyzing technical and non-technical aspects of this engineering failure, the presenting students had to grapple with the complexity and inter-connectedness of many considerations, and the sophistication of their analysis and argumentation formed the basis for the faculty member's assessment of their work Grades for diese student projects are based on the quality of students' formulation of key questions raised by the case, analysis of those questions and issues, plausibility of the positions students put forward in response to those questions, the rigor of their argumentation, and effectiveness of presentation.
This example illustrates the fact that when faculty members evaluate students' work in engineering ethics, they are not assigning grades to students' character. All higher education institutions have disciplinary procedures in place to deal with behavioral issues such as violations of academic integrity, so assessing students' achievements regarding engineering ethics does not involve "policing students' behavior" as one faculty member called it.
Shuman, Besterfield-Sacre, and McGourty (2005) underscore this point in a recent article on the teaching and assessment of professional skills in engineering. They point out that the ABET criteria call for engineering education to ensure students' understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities and, therefore, "Students should be evaluated on knowledge and skills, not on values and beliefs." Toward this end, Shuman et al. (2004 and 2005b) have developed and validated a scoring rubric to assess students' ability to recognize and resolve complex, open-ended ethical dilemmas. Students' written responses to ethical decision-making scenarios in engineering practice are coded for five components: recognition of dilemma (capacity to identify and frame key dilemmas), information (recognition and appropriate use of pertinent facts), analysis (such as citation of analogous cases), perspective (consideration of multiple points of view), and resolution (consideration of risks, development of creative win-win solutions). Research using this instrument has supported its validity as a measure of ethical reasoning about engineering dilemmas.
VII. RESEARCH ON STUDENT OUTCOMES
Quantitative studies of engineering ethics education support our impression that students receive inadequate support for their development in this domain. Robert McGinn, professor of engineering at Stanford University, reports survey data (2003, p. 528) that indicate significant gaps between the ethical realities of engineering practice and preparation for those realities in engineering schools. Participants in his survey of practicing engineers say that they regularly face ethical