Outcome f an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
 

Introduction and Invitation

Constructing resources for assessment and instruction related to the eleven student outcomes contained in Criterion 3 of the ABET Engineering Criteria requires contributions across the entire engineering community. If you have one or more resources (for example, helpful papers, survey forms, assessment materials, instructional materials) for assessment and/or instructional related to outcome f click here. Please indicate whether and how you would like your contribution to be acknowledged. Thanks for contributing the growing understanding of how we might help engineering students develop knowledge and skills that they will draw upon throughout their careers.

Learning Objectives

The first step in selecting assessment and instructional approaches for a learning outcome is to formulate learning objectives that support the outcome. Learning objectives describe expectations associated with the outcome in terms of expected and observable performances. Several researchers have already constructed learning objectives and these may provide worthwhile starting points for others.

Haws, in his meta-analysis of ethics instruction across engineering education offers the following three learning objectives: To “enable” these objectives we need to enhance the efficacy of our students’ divergent thinking, help them to see engineering outcomes through the eyes of non-engineers, and give them access to the common vocabulary of ethical articulation. If we understanding these three “enabling” objectives to be the goal of instruction (rather than the vague admonition that our students “understand” their professional and ethical responsibilities), it becomes much easier to evaluate the methods currently used in engineering ethics instruction [1].

Felder and Brent offer the following two learning objectives for outcome 3f (understand professional and ethical responsibility) [2]: Given a job-related scenario that requires a decision with ethical implications, the student will be able to:

  • Identify possible courses of action and discuss the pros and cons of each one
  • Decide on the best course of action and justify the decision.

A team of researchers (Larry Shuman, Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre, Harvey Wolfe, Cynthia J. Atman, Jack McGourty, Ronald L. Miller, Barbara M. Olds, and Gloria M. Rogers) working a NSF-supported project, Engineering Education: Assessment Methodologies and Curricula Innovation, used Bloom's Taxonomy to develop and organize a set of learning objectives for outcome 3f (understand professional and ethical responsibility) [3]. They developed learning objectives for all six levels of learning in Bloom's taxonomy for four outcome elements:

  • Demonstrates an ability to make informed ethical choices
  • Demonstrates knowledge of a professional code of ethics
  • Evaluates the ethical dimensions of professional engineering and scientific practice
  • Demonstrates ethical practice

Steneck, in his description of the approach to teaching ethics across the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, offers the following objective: "an ability to analyze situations that raise questions about and to articulate reasoned ways to respond to ethical dilemmas" [4]. Shuman, Sindelar, Besterfield-Sacre, Wolfe, Pinkus, Miller, Olds, and Mitcham offer the following objective: "engineering program’s graduates can recognize and resolve complex, open-ended and often ill-defined ethical dilemmas, especially those that they may encounter in the routine practice of engineering" [5]

Assessment Approaches

In a report from the National Research Council, Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment [6], assessment, once expectations have been constructed, rests on three pillars: cognition, observation, and interpretation. Following this recommendation, the present section has subsections for each of the three pillars and then offers suggestions on assessment approaches for outcome f.

Theories of Cognition

Kohlberg's Model of Moral Development [7,8,9,10] is an important part of the theoretical foundation for outcome f. Based on interviews about moral dilemmas with different subjects, Kohlberg proposed that moral judgment is developed through a series of six stages organized into three levels. Brief summaries of each of the six stages are offered below; however, readers are encouraged to use the references and resources to obtain a more accurate picture of Kohlberg's model.

Level 1. Preconventional Morality

Stage 1. Obedience and Punishment Orientation
Learner assumes that an authority establishes rules that must be obeyed.

Stage 2. Individualism and Exchange
Learners recognize that different individuals have different viewpoints and shift their concept to cast morality in terms of self-interest and quid pro quo exchanges with others.

Level II. Conventional Morality

Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships
Learners see that they should attempt to meet expectations of others, particularly others in their families and communities.

Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order.
Learners see that morality is established by and through interaction with a broader range of people.

Level III. Postconventional Morality

Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights
Learners see that morality requires more that broad societal consensus. Abstractions of right and wrong are required.

Stage 6: Universal Principles
Learners see that universal principles can be invoked to determine justice.

Gilligan [11], arguing that Kohlberg's model reflected only the male perspective, developed a three-cycle model of ethical development that was intended to reflect a different voice and value system of women. The three cycles are

Cycle 1. Orientation to Individual Survival

Learner uses self-survival as the basis for making choices when faced with ethical dilemmas.

Cycle 2. Goodness as Self-Sacrifice

Learner uses consequences to others as the basis for making choices.

Cycle 3. Responsibility for Consequences of Choice

Learner uses consequences to others and self and realizes that all choices imply consequences and negative consequences may be impossible to avoid.

Under construction (15 February 2005)

Theories of Interpretation

Under construction (14 February 2005)

Theories of Interpretation

Under construction (14 February 2005)

Possible Assessment Resources

Defining Issues Test

Need to research DIT and provide accessible summary.

Under construction (15 February 2005)

Instructional Approaches

Under construction

References for Further Information

  1. Haws, D.R. (2001). Ethics Instruction in Engineering Education: A (Mini) Meta-Analysis. Journal of Engineering Education, 90:2, 223-229.

    Abstract: What are the objectives of engineering ethics? How is it being taught and how might instruction be more effective? The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) annual conference proceedings (1996–1999) contain 42 papers that treat engineering ethics as a coherent educational objective. Some of these papers disclose small components that seem to be part of a larger ethics curriculum. Other papers discuss engineering courses that are clearly the department’s major ethics commitment. While it would be inappropriate to assume that the 42 papers represent the only means by which engineering students receive ethics instruction, these papers do present a variety of more-or-less defensible approaches and certainly the major intentional approaches of engineering curricula. This paper will develop an analysis of the 42 articles, including a discussion of where ethics is being taught (from both a chronological, and disciplinary perspective), and the six pedagogical approaches used to transfer an understanding of ethics to the student. These approaches include professional codes, humanist readings, theoretical grounding, ethical heuristics, case studies, and service learning. These six approaches will also be analyzed in terms of their promise to develop the ethical competencies needed by engineers.

  2. Felder, R.M., and Brent, R. (2003). Designing and Teaching Courses to Satisfy the ABET Engineering Criteria. Journal of Engineering Education, 92:1, 7-25.

    Abstract: Since the new ABET accreditation system was first introduced to American engineering education in the middle 1990s as Engineering Criteria 2000, most discussion in the literature has focused on how to assess Outcomes 3a–3k and relatively little has concerned how to equip students with the skills and attitudes specified in those outcomes. This paper seeks to fill this gap. Its goals are to (1) overview the accreditation process and clarify the confusing array of terms associated with it (objectives, outcomes, outcome indicators, etc.); (2) provide guidance on the formulation of course learning objectives and assessment methods that address Outcomes 3a–3k; (3) identify and describe instructional techniques that should effectively prepare students to achieve those outcomes by the time they
    graduate; and (4) propose a strategy for integrating programlevel and course-level activities when designing an instructional program to meet the requirements of the ABET engineering criteria.

  3. Learning Outcomes/Attributes, ABET f—An Understanding of Professional and Ethical Responsibility, accessed 16 November 2004
  4. Steneck, N.H. (1999). Designing Teaching and Assessment Tools for an Integrated Engineering Ethics Curriculum, Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference, accessed 17 November 2004

    Abstract: In 1996, the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan adopted an across-the-curriculum approach for teaching engineering ethics as part of the implementation of a new curriculum-Curriculum 2000. This paper describes the implementation of that decision, looking at the limitations and goals that shaped curriculum design; the strategic plan for weaving an ethics thread through the curriculum; the underlying teaching philosophy followed; the development of Web resources to support the teaching effort; plans for assessment; and finally prospects for the future. It is concluded that with proper planning, commitment, and support, engineering faculty can in the normal course of teaching in regular courses help students develop a sufficient "understanding of professional and ethical responsibility" to satisfy EC 2000.

  5. Shuman, L.J., Sindelar, M.F., Besterfield-Sacre, M., Wolfe, H., Pinkus, R.L., Miller, R.L., Olds, B.M., Mitcham, C. (2004). Can Our Students Recognize and Resolve Ethical Dilemmas? Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, accessed 18 February 2005

    Abstract: ABET’s accreditation criteria have provided additional impetus for preparing engineering graduates to understand their professional and ethical responsibilities. Accordingly, engineering ethics courses have stressed skills acquisition rather than behavior change. However, to date, methods to assess students’ ability to resolve ethical dilemmas remain largely undeveloped. As part of a joint study at the University of Pittsburgh and the Colorado School of Mines, we are developing a measurement tool for assessing students’ abilities to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas. To date we have constructed and validated an analytic scoring rubric for ethical dilemmas consisting of five components: recognition of and framing the dilemma; use of information (both known and unknown, i.e., facts or concepts needed to resolve the problem but not included in the case text); analysis of the scenario; perspective taken; and suggested resolution. We have used the rubric to evaluate the capabilities of 120 students, ranging from freshman to graduate levels using a test consisting of three ethical dilemmas for which the student provides a written analysis. The analyses are then holistically scored using the rubric that allows us to classify the student’s level of achievement. We present the results of these tests and discuss the lessons learned from this experiment. Our long-term objective is to develop a web-based assessment instrument similar to CSM’s Cogito© system for assessing intellectual development that can be effectively used by engineering faculty to assess students’ ability to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas.

  6. National Research Council. (2001). Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. Committee on the Foundations of Assessment, James W. Pellegrino, Naomi Chudowsky, and Robert Glaser, editors, Board on Testing and Assessment, Center for Education, National Research Council.
  7. Kohlberg, L, and Kramer, R. (1969). Continuities and Discontinuities in Childhood and Adult Moral Development. Human Development, 12, 93-120.
  8. Kohlberg, L. (1981). The meaning and measurement of moral development. Cambridge, UK: Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain.
  9. Kohlberg, L. (1984) Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Socialization. In Kohlberg, L., ed., The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages, Harper and Row, San Fransisco
  10. Kohlberg, L., C. Levine, and A. Hewer (1984) The Current Formulation of the Theory. In Kohlberg, L., ed., The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages, Harper and Row, San Fransisco
  11. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Web Resources

Sindelar, M., Shuman, L., Besterfield-Sacre, M., Miller, R., Mitcham, C., Olds, B., Pinkus, R., and Wolfe, H. (2003) Assessing Engineering Students' Abilities to Resolve Ethical Dilemmas, Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference

Abstract: ABET’s accreditation criteria provides additional impetus for preparing engineering graduates to act in an ethically responsible manner. However, methods to assess the effectiveness of educational efforts to do this remain primitive at best. We describe the first phase of a joint study at the University of Pittsburgh and the Colorado School of Mines to develop a measurement tool for assessing students’ abilities to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas. Pre- and post-tests at the beginning and end of a semester-long course focusing on engineering ethics are used to assess students’ comprehension, analysis, and resolution of ethical dilemmas. Each test consists of two ethical dilemmas addressed through a response essay that is then
holistically scored using a rubric that classifies students’ level of achievement. Results are analyzed using statistical methods to determine if any “shifts” have occurred to indicate a significant positive change in the cohort’s collective ability. A second phase will involve the development of a web-based assessment instrument similar to CSM’s Cogito© that can be easily used by engineering faculty.

Pfatteicher, S.K.A. (2001). Teaching vs. Preaching: EC2000 and the Engineering Ethics Dilemma. Journal of Engineering Education, 90:1, 137-142

Abstract: The recently revised accreditation criteria issued by ABET have stirred renewed discussion of how and why to teach engineering ethics. This paper suggests that demonstrating students “understand ethics” need not (indeed, should not) imply that we assess whether our students “behave ethically,” either before or after graduation. Suggestions are provided for an approach focused on teaching ethics rather than preaching ethics, potential counter-arguments are considered, and references to key resources in the engineering ethics literature are included.

Stephan, K.D. (1999). A Survey of Ethics-Related Instruction in U.S. Engineering Programs, Journal of Engineering Education, 88:4, 459-464

Abstract: Ethics as a topic of study is called for by both the present ABET accreditation criteria and the proposed Engineering Criteria 2000. This paper presents the results of a survey of the ethics-related course requirements of virtually all engineering programs in the U.S. Even with a liberal definition of “ethics-related topics,” the data reveal that only about one-fourth of the institutions surveyed require all of their engineering undergraduates to take at least one course in which ethics or ethics-related topics were listed in the catalog description. Because the institutions with extensive ethics course requirements tended to be small, only about one out of five students who graduated from accredited programs in 1996–97 came from an institution with such a requirement. These data show the relative invisibility of ethics-related instruction in present course requirements, and also highlight institutions that can serve as examples for others seeking to improve their instructional efforts in this area.

The Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering Programs at the Unviersity of California, Santa Clara describe specifically how they assess and evaluate the performance of their graduates with respect to outcome f, an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development provides the theoretical foundation for work on assessment of growth in moral reasoning. The chapter provides an introduction to Kohlberg's theory (accessed 25 January 2005).

Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M., and Thoma, S. (1999). A Neo-Kohlbergian Approach: The DIT and Schema Theory. Educational Psychology Review, 11(4), 291-324

Abstract: "Macromorality" concerns the formal structure of society, as defined by institutions, rules, and roles. "Micromorality" concerns the particular face-to-face relations that people have in everyday life. Kohlbergian theories are most useful for issues of macromorality. The Defining Issues Test (DIT) derives from Kohlberg's approach but makes several departures, including defining cognitive structures in terms of schemas instead of stages, reformulating the definition of postconventional moral thinking, and using different research strategies. The validity of the DIT is based on seven criteria (briefly discussed), and hundreds of studies have produced significant trends. Recent research derived from schema theory produces novel phenomena that link our theory of moral schemas more closely with information processing and decision making.