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Engineering ethics education in the USA: content, pedagogy and curriculum

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Interest in engineering ethics education developed significant momentum in the USA as the 20th century drew to a close. Nevertheless, nearly 80% of engineering graduates are not required to take ethics-related courses. The content of engineering ethics education consists of 'microethical' issues focusing on individual professional responsibility and 'macroethical' issues dealing with the development of technology. The pedagogical framework of engineering ethics education has evolved primarily toward utilization of case studies and codes of ethics, in some instances supplemented by an introduction to moral theory. Substantial progress has been made in the development of case materials, including highprofile cases, everyday cases, quantitative cases and cases highlighting 'good works'. Cases are widely disseminated in textbooks and online. Online resources include interactive case studies and a rich variety of other ethics-related materials. Prominent curriculum models in the USA include a required course in engineering ethics, ethics-across-the-curriculum projects, and integration of engineering ethics and science, technology and society material. Changes in accreditation criteria for US engineering schools will potentially elevate the prominence of instruction in engineering ethics and the societal context of engineering. Many challenges remain, most notably the need for US engineering faculty to accept greater responsibility for engineering ethics education.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2000

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