Building a community of ethics educators in graduate engineering programs: Developing an ethics workshop following a user-oriented approach

Xiaofeng Tang, Eduardo Mendieta, Thomas A. Litzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ethics education in undergraduate engineering programs tends to focus on ethical issues that arise in the professional context. By contrast, ethics education for graduate students in engineering often addresses different kinds of ethical challenges, ones that relate to norms and expectations in the research community as well as the broad social impact of engineering research. In recent years, leading organizations such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) have made significant efforts to promote ethics training for graduate researchers. In spite of these concerted efforts, few sustainable models for incorporating ethics in graduate engineering programs have been described in the literature. As designers of ethics education programs, we argue that considerable progress can be achieved through engaging and empowering our users-the engineering faculty members who teach graduate courses and advise graduate students in research groups. This paper presents a user-oriented approach to building a community of ethics educators in graduate engineering education. We begin the paper by reporting our "user study" of engineering faculty's current approaches, challenges, and needs for teaching ethics to graduate students at a large, public research university. Findings of the user study guided our design of a workshop on "Ethical Literacy and Ethical Data Management" that helped engineering faculty members develop conceptual understanding and instructional skills for teaching ethical inquiry that are related to particular areas of engineering research. Design of the workshop sought to meet three objectives: 1) helping participating faculty members develop basic understanding of ethical theories and concepts; 2) introducing ethical issues related with engineering research, especially with the handling of research data; 3) sharing and demonstrating instructional methods for leading discussion-based ethical analysis. Feedback from the workshop participants and their subsequent presentations of ethics teaching plans indicate that our user-oriented approach successfully engaged a cohort of ethics educators in graduate engineering programs. We conclude this paper by reflecting on the lessons we learned from the workshop design and reporting our plans for refining the workshop in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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