Authors: Matthew Studley (UWE Bristol); Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University). 

Keywords: Pedagogy; Personal ethics; Risk. 

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate ethics into the engineering and design curriculum, or into module design and learning activities. It describes techniques that can help to provide students with opportunities to practise the communication and critical thinking skills that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise: 

Discussing ethical issues can be a daunting prospect, whether one-to-one or with an entire classroom. Ethics often addresses topics and decisions related to moral choices and delicate situations about which people may have firm and long-held beliefs. Additionally, these issues are often rooted in underlying values which may differ between people, cultures, or even time periods. For instance, something that was considered immoral or unethical in a rural community in 18th-century Ireland may have been viewed very differently at the same time in urban India. Because students come from different backgrounds and experiences, it is essential to be sensitive to this context (Kirk and Flammia, 2016). However, ethics also requires that we address tough topics in order to make decisions about what we should do in difficult situations, such as those encountered by engineers in their personal, professional, and civic lives. 

 

Why we need to be sensitive in discussions about ethics: 

Discussions about tough topics can be ‘triggering’. Psychologists define a psychological ‘trigger’ as a stimulus that causes a painful memory to resurface. A trigger can be any reminder of the traumatic event: a sound, sight, smell, physical sensation, words, or images. When a person is triggered, they’re being provoked by a stimulus that awakens or worsens the symptoms of a traumatic event or mental health condition (Gerdes, 2019). A person’s strong reaction to being triggered may come as a surprise to others because the response seems out of proportion to the stimulus, because the triggered individual is mentally reliving the original trauma. Some neurodivergencies can adapt these responses. For example, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience stronger emotional reactions and may present this in ways which are unfamiliar or surprising to those who have not experienced the same challenges (Fuld, 2018). 

Apart from triggering memories, the topics of right and wrong may be emotive. Young people are often passionate in their beliefs and may be moved to strong responses. There is nothing wrong with that, unless one person’s strong response makes another’s participation and expression less likely.  

 

Ethics is only salient if the topics are tough: 

Ethics concerns questions of moral value, of right and wrong, and relates to our deep-held beliefs and emotions. If any experience in an engineer’s education is likely to cause unpleasant memories to surface, or to stimulate strong discussion, it’s likely to be Ethics, and some of our students may have an emotional response to the topics of discussion and their impacts. This might be enough to make many educators shy away from integrating ethics. 

However, research has shown that most engineers are moved by their personal sense of moral value, rather than by abstract external standards, and this can create very powerful and impactful learning experiences (Génova and González, 2016). To teach Ethics, we need to be willing to engage emotionally. Students also appreciate when educators can be vulnerable in the same way that we ask them to be, which means being willing to be honest about our own reactions to tough topics. 

 

Approaches to tackling tough topics:  

a. Prepare by reviewing resources 

Several resources exist to guide educators who are engaging with tough topics in the classroom. Teaching and learning specialists recognise the challenges inherent in engaging with this kind of activity, yet also want to support educators who see the value in creating a space for students to wrestle with the difficult questions that they will encounter in the future. Many centres of teaching and learning at universities provide strategies and guidance through websites or pamphlets that are easily found by searching online. We include a list of some of our preferred resources below. 

b. Prepare by finding local support 

Even though we will avoid obvious triggers, there’s always the possibility that our students may become upset. We should be prepared by promoting the contact details for local support services within the institution. It can never be a bad thing for our students to know about these. 

 c. Give warnings and ask for consent 

You might want to warn your students that discussing ethical matters is not without emotional consequence. At your discretion, seek their explicit consent to continue. There has been some criticism of this approach in the media, as some authors suggest that this infantilises the audience. Indeed, the pros and cons of trigger warnings might make an interesting topic for discussion: life can be cruel, is there value in developing a thick skin? What do we lose in this process? Being honest about your own hesitations and internal conflicts might encourage students to open up about how they wrestle with their own dilemmas. To be fully supportive, consider an advanced warning with the option to opt-out so that people aren’t stampeded into something they might prefer to avoid. 

 d. Recognise discomfort, and respond 

Be aware of the possibility that individuals in your group could become upset. Be prepared to quietly offer time out or to change the activity in response to where the students want to take the discussion. Again, being transparent with the students that some people may be uncomfortable or upset by topics can reveal another relevant ethical topic – how to be respectful of others whose response differs from your own. And being willing to change the activity demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability required of 21st century engineers!  

 e. Avoid unnecessary risk 

Some topics are best avoided due to the strength of emotion which they might trigger in students whose life story may be unknown to us. These topics include sexual abuse, self-harm, violence, eating disorders, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse and paedophilia, and rape.  

 

Be kind, and be brave: 

Above all, let your students know that you care for their well-being. If we are to teach Ethics, let us be ethical. You might need to overcome some awkward moments with your students, but you will all learn and grow in the process! 

 

References: 

Fuld S. (2018) ‘Autism spectrum disorder: The Impact of stressful and traumatic life events and implications for clinical practice.’ Clinical Social Work Journal 46(3), pp. 210-219.  

Génova, G., and González, M.R. (2016) ‘Teaching ethics to engineers: A Socratic experience,’ Science and Engineering Ethics 22, pp. 567–580.  

Gerdes, K. (2019) ‘Trauma, trigger warnings, and the rhetoric of sensitivity,’ Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 49(1), pp. 3-24. 

Kirk S. A. and Flammia, M. (2016) ‘Teaching the ethics of intercultural communication,’ in Teaching and Training for Global Engineering: Perspectives on Culture and Professional Communication Practices, pp.91-124. 

 

Additional resources: 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Case enhancement: Developing a school chatbot for student support services

Activity: Stakeholder mapping to elicit value assumptions and motivations.

Author: Karin Rudolph (Collective Intelligence).

 

Overview:

This enhancement is for an activity found in point 5 of the Summary section of the case study.

What is stakeholder mapping?

What is a stakeholder?

Mapping out stakeholders will help you to:

  1. Identify the stakeholders you need to collaborate with to ensure the success of the project.
  2. Understand the different perspectives and points of view people have and how these experiences can have an impact on your project or product.
  3. Map out a wide range of people, groups or individuals that can affect and be affected by the project.

 

Stakeholder mapping:

The stakeholder mapping activity is a group exercise that provides students with the opportunity to discuss ethical and societal issues related to the School Chatbot case study. We recommend doing this activity in small groups of 6-8 students per table.

 

Resources:

 

Materials:

To carry out this activity, you will need the following resources:

1. Sticky notes (or digital notes if online).

2. A big piece of paper or digital board (Jamboard, Miro if online) divided into four categories:

3. Markers and pencils.

 

The activity:

 

Board One

List of stakeholders:

Below is a list of the stakeholders involved in the Chatbot project. Put each stakeholder on a sticky note and add them to the stakeholders map, according to their level of influence and interest in the projects.

Top tip: use a different colour for each set of stakeholders.

School Chatbot – List of Stakeholders:

 

Placement:

 

Guidance:

Each quadrant represents the following:

Board One

Motivations, assumptions, ethical and societal risks:

Materials:

1. A big piece of paper or digital board (Jamboard, Miro if online) divided into four categories:

2. Sticky notes (or digital notes if online).

3. Markers and pencils.

The activity:

 

Board Two

The Board Two activity can be done in two different ways:

Option 1:

You can use some guiding questions to direct the discussion. For example:

Option 2:

We have already written some assumptions, motivations and ethical/societal risks and you can add these as notes on a table and ask students to place according to each category: stakeholders, motivations, assumptions, and ethical and societal risks.

Motivations:

Assumptions:

Potential ethical and societal risks:

Move and match: 

 

 

 

Reflection:

Ask students to choose 2- 4 sticky notes and explain why they think these are important ethical/societal risks.

 

Potential future activity:

A more advanced activity could involve a group discussion where students are asked to think about some mitigation strategies to minimise these risks.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Prof Lucy Rogers (RAEng Visiting Professor at Brunel University, London and freelance engineering consultant) and Petra Gratton (Associate Dean of Professional Development and Graduate Outcomes in the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Science at Brunel University London, and Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)

Keywords: Industry, Interview, Video, Real Life, Engineers

Abstract: A number of short videos that can be re-used in teaching undergraduate modules in Engineering Business, instead of inviting guest presentations. The interview technique got each individual to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment, finance and creativity. They also drew attention to their professional development.

 

Project outcomes

The outcomes of this project are a number of short videos that were used, and can be re-used, in teaching delivery of an undergraduate module in Engineering Business in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Brunel University London instead of having guest presentations from invited speakers.  Lucy’s interview technique got the individuals featured in each film to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment and finance; and drew attention to their professional development. 

The shorter videos were inspirational for students to make videos of themselves as part of the assessment of the module, which required them to carry out a personal professional reflection exercise and report upon what they had learned from the exercise in a simple 90-second video using their smartphone or laptop. 

Having used the videos with Brunel students, Lucy has made them available on her YouTube channel: Dr Lucy Rogers – YouTube. Each of the videos are listed in the following table:

 

Topic Who Video Link
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Reid Derby https://youtu.be/qQILO4uXJ24
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Leigh-Ann Russell https://youtu.be/LJLG2SH0CwM
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Richard Hopkins https://youtu.be/tLQ7lZ3nlvg
Corporate Social Responsibility Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/N7ojL6id_BI
Ethics and Diversity Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/Q4MhkLQqWuI
Project Management and Engineers Fiona Neads (Rolls Royce) https://youtu.be/-TZlwk6HuUI
Project Management – Life Cycle Paul Kahn
(Aerospace and Defence Industry)
https://youtu.be/1Z4ZXMLRPt4
Ethics at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/gmBq9FIX6ek
Communication Skills at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/kmgAlyz7OhI
Client Brief Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/WNYhDA317wE
Intellectual Property from Artist’s Point of View Dave Corney
(Artist and Designer)
https://youtu.be/t4pLkletXIs
Intellectual Property Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/L5bO0IdxKyI
Project Management Fiona Neads – Rolls Royce https://youtu.be/XzgS5SJhiA0

 

Lessons learned and reflections

We learned that students generally engaged with the videos that were used.  Depending which virtual learning environment (VLE) was being used, using pre-recorded videos in synchronous online lectures presents various challenges.  To avoid any unplanned glitches, in future we know to use the pre-recorded videos as part of the teaching-delivery preparation (e.g. in a flipped classroom mode). 

As part of her legacy, Lucy is going to prepare a set of simple instructions on producing video interviews that can be carried out by both staff and students in future.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Goudarz Poursharif (Aston University), Dr Panos Doss (Aston University) and Bill Glew (Aston University)

Keywords: WBL, Degree Apprenticeship, Engineering

Abstract: This case study presents our approach in the design, delivery, and assessment of three UG WBL Engineering Degree Apprenticeship programmes launched in January 2020 at Aston University’s Professional Engineering Centre (APEC) in direct collaboration with major industrial partners. The case study also outlines the measures put in place to bring about added value for the employers and the apprentices as well as the academics at Aston University through tripartite collaboration opportunities built into the teaching and learning methods adopted by the programme team.

This case study is presented as a video which you can view below: 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Author: Dr Mike Murray (Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow)

Keywords: Mentors, Mentees, Civil Engineering

Abstract: On enrolment at university, undergraduate civil engineering students begin their journey towards a professional career. Graduate mentoring of student mentees supports students in their transition towards ‘becoming’ a professional engineer. This case study examines the results from a graduate mentoring initiative (2010-2022) involving third-year (N= 974) civil and environmental engineering student mentees, 235 graduate mentors and 73 employers.

 

A Virtuous collaboration between academia and industry

This case study examines the establishment of an industry-student mentoring scheme whereby Alumni civil engineering graduates volunteer to mentor student mentees. The mentoring is formalised in a third-year module (Construction Project Management).

Authentic Learning

The mentoring initiative aims to expose the mentees to authentic civil engineering practice, to shape their professional identity and belongingness to their chosen discipline, and, to enhance their employability skills. Mentors are tasked ‘to help motivate students towards learning what is useful and what might make them a better engineer rather than just focusing on grades’ [1].Two theoretical concepts provided a lens to guide the implementation. ‘Possible selves are representations of the self in the future, including those that are ideal and hoped for as well as those that one does not wish for’ [2 p.233]. Anticipatory socialisation involves individuals anticipating their future occupation prior to entry and constitutes all learning that takes place prior to an individual’s first day at work [3].

People, Place & Culture

The collaboration between the department and employers began in 2010 when the author approached the department’s existing industry contacts, to become the inaugural mentors. Today, LinkedIn and other social media provide a platform for broadcasting mentoring news. Over time the mentoring has built its own brand momentum and Alumni and employers now make unsolicited offers to assist (i.e. see [4] for university and industry-driven engagement strategies). The brand is enhanced through its association with key sector employers but given the propensity for small and micro SMEs in the engineering sector, these employers should not be overlooked.

Whilst the mentoring is embedded within the mechanics of a formal structure (i.e. Module, Learning Outcomes, and Assessment etc.) the development, sustaining and leadership of the initiate is fuelled through informal professional relationships. Social relations are important to maintain ongoing engagement between universities and industry stakeholders [4 p.14]. The collaborative culture is characterised by value alignment and trust between the stakeholders [5].

 

Mentoring with a contractor.

Stakeholders

The mentoring initiative can be considered an ‘employer group’ model whereby ‘engagement included collaboration between a single HEI (University of Strathclyde) and two or more employers on the same initiative’ [5 p.23]. The initial buy-in from the mentors normally requires sanctioning by a line manager, often, a supervising civil engineer.

The value alignment between all stakeholders is personified through knowledge transfer (mentor-mentee); professional development (mentor-employer); creating social value (employer-university) and, the university department through fulfilling the programme accreditation requirements:

JBM strongly recommends that higher education institutions (HEIs) maintain strong, viable and visible links with the civil engineering profession [6 p.21].

By association, the professional institutions benefit through the mentors’ contribution to their own CPD, en-route to IEng / CEng, and, through the mentees gaining an awareness of profession attributes through their own IPD during their university studies:

All members shall develop their professional knowledge, skills and competence on a continuing basis and shall give all reasonable assistance to further the education, training and continuing professional development (CPD) of others [7].

A fuller description of the mentoring process can be found [8]. Suffice to say the mentees (in groups of four) visit their mentors in the field, at a consultant’s office, and/or to a live construction site on four occasions over two academic semesters. Typically, the mentors will also provide mentees with access to their peers who would shed light on their own graduate trajectories. The department’s industrial advisory board [9] published guidance to assist the mentors. During the Covid pandemic, the majority of meetings were undertaken on ZOOM /TEAMS platforms. To date, the initiative has involved:

Assessment Evolution

Over the piece, the mentoring assessment has constituted a circa 40% weighting for the 10 credit module. Initially, the students were tasked with only describing what had been learned and to link this to professional institution attributes [10]. This morphed into an Assessment for Learning [11] and sought to develop the student’s reflective practitioner [12] and metacognition skills [13]. Students develop four SMART learning objectives, linked to their programme curriculum, and, to explore these topics with guidance from their mentors. Today, the assessment criteria partially reflects the tenets of self-determined learning:

The essence of heutagogy is that in some learning situations, the focus should be on what and how the learner wants to learn, not on what is being taught [14 p.7].

During the 2020-22 academic sessions the Covid pandemic presented an opportunity to employ eLearning technology, to enhance the student’s reflection skills. The author is currently piloting Vlogging [15] whereby the students are tasked with completing short video blogs concerning their mentoring experience, and, to use the audio transcript to facilitate second-order reflection in a summative report:

..any technique that requires a learner to look through previous reflective work and to write a deeper reflective overview [16 p.148].

 

Mentoring with a Consultant

Key Outcomes

The key outcomes concern enhanced opportunities for placement and graduate employment, and, an improvement in the students’ employability skills [8]. Recent anecdotal feedback (i.e. unsolicited student emails; NSS Free text; Module Evaluation; Employer Feedback) demonstrates that students, and employers, consider the initiative to constitute an emerging talent pipeline. The mentoring provides a surrogate mechanism to short circuit employer’s traditional recruitment process.

The CE4R [17] workshops are the best thing ever. That along with the mentoring class in third year is the main reason I have my graduate job, whilst my grades and ability helped, these aspects of my course opened the door for me. (NSS Free Text, 2021)

The graduate mentoring programme is excellent and is highly beneficial to both the students, our graduates in the business and AECOM as a whole.  (Lynn Masterson AECOM, Regional Director North, Scotland & Ireland. Ground, Energy & Transactions Solutions, UK&I)

The [mentoring] scheme works for us on a number of levels in providing benefits to us as a company, the professional development of our current graduate engineers, and the development of current Strathclyde undergraduates who may go on to work for us or others in industry. (Simon McCormick, Balfour Beatty, Contracts Director, Scotland)

Lessons Learned

Guidance & Resources

Generic Guidance:

Bolden R.,   Connor, H., Duquemin, A.,   Hirsh, W., & Petrov, G. (2009). Employer Engagement with Higher Education: Defining, Sustaining and Supporting Higher Skills Provision, A Higher Skills Research Report for HERDA South West and HEFCE.

Broadbent, O & McCann, E. (2026) Effective industrial engagement in engineering education– A good practice guide, Royal Academy of Engineering.

Davies, J.W &  Rutherford, U. (2012) Learning from fellow engineering students who have current professional experience, European Journal of Engineering Education, 37:4, 354-365, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2012.693907

Valentine, A., Marinelli, M., &  Male, S (2021): Successfully facilitating initiation of industry engagement in activities which involve students in engineering education, through social capital, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2021.2010033

Waterhouse, P (2020) Mentoring for Civil Engineers, London: ICE Publishing

University Guidance:

University of Colorado Boulder (2022) Chemical & Biological Engineering: Alumni-Student Mentor Program, https://www.colorado.edu/chbe/ASMP

University of Exeter (2022) Career Mentor Scheme: Mentee Guide, http://www.exeter.ac.uk/media/universityofexeter/careersandemployability/employmentservices/Mentee_Guide_December_2021.pdf

University of Southampton (2022) Career Mentoring Programme: Mentor Handbook, https://www.southampton.ac.uk/~assets/doc/careers/Mentor_Handbook.pdf

The Pennsylvania State University (2022) Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) Mentoring Program, https://www.cee.psu.edu/alumni/mentor/index.aspx

End notes

[1] Broadbent, O & McCann, E. (2026) Effective industrial engagement in engineering education– A good practice guide, Royal Academy of Engineering. https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/effective-industrial-engagement-in-engineering-edu

[2] Stevenson, J & Clegg, S. (2011). Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity, British Educational Research Journal 37(2): 231–246.

[3] Sang, K., Ison, S., Dainty, A., & Powell, A. (2009). Anticipatory socialisation amongst architects: a qualitative examination. Education + Training 51(4):309-321, DOI: 10.1108/00400910910964584 .

[4] Valentine, A., Marinelli, M., &  Male, S (2021): Successfully facilitating initiation of industry engagement in activities which involve students in engineering education, through social capital, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2021.2010033

[5] Bolden R.,   Connor, H., Duquemin, A.,   Hirsh, W., & Petrov, G. (2009). Employer Engagement with Higher Education: Defining, Sustaining and Supporting Higher Skills Provision, A Higher Skills Research Report for HERDA South West and HEFCE, https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10036/79653/Higher%20Skills%20research%20report.pdf;jsessionid=0A6694CF9D25BBD80AC649069C2D9DFA?sequence=1

[6] Joint Board of Moderators (2021) Guidelines for developing degree programmes. https://www.jbm.org.uk/media/hiwfac4x/guidelines-for-developing-degree-programmes_ahep3.pdf

[7] Institution of Civil Engineers (2022) Code of Professional Conduct https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/About%20Us/ice-code-of-professional-conduct.pdf

[8] Murray. M., Ross. A., Blaney, N & Adamson, L. (2015). Mentoring Undergraduate Civil Engineering Students. Proceedings of the ICE-Management, Procurement & Law, 168(4): 189–198.

[9] University of Strathclyde (2013) Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Industrial Advisory Board Guide to mentoring.

[10] Institution of Civil Engineers (2022) Attributes for professionally qualified membership, https://www.ice.org.uk/my-ice/membership-documents/member-attributes#CEng2022

[11] Sambell, K, McDowell, L and Montgomery C (2013) Assessment for learning in Higher Education, Oxon: Routledge.

[12] Schon, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco; Jossey-Bass.

[13] Davis, D., Trevisan, M., Leiffer,P., McCormack,J.,  Beyerlein, S., Khan, M.J., & Brackin, R.(2013) Reflection and Metacognition in Engineering Practice, In, Kaplan, M., Silver, N., Lavaque-Manty, D & Meizlish, D (edits) Using Reflection and metacognition to Improve Student Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, pp78-103.

[14] Hase, S & Kenyon, C. (2013). Self-Determined Learning: Heutagogy in Action London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

[15] Brott, P.E. (2020): Vlogging and reflexive applications, Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, DOI: 10.1080/02680513.2020.1869536

[16] Moon, J (2004) A Handbook of Reflective & Experiential learning: Theory & Practice. London: Routledge.

[17] Murray, M., Hendry, G., & McQuade, R. (2020). Civil Engineering 4 Real (CE4R): Co-curricular Learning for Undergraduates. European Journal of Engineering Education. 45(1):128-150.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Bob Tricklebank (Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology) and Sue Parr (WMG, University of Warwick).

Keywords: Partnerships, Academic, Industry

Abstract: This case study illustrates how, through a commitment to established guiding principles, open communication, a willingness to challenge and be challenged, flexibility and open communication, it’s possible to design and deliver a degree apprenticeship programme that is more than the sum of its parts. 

 

Introduction

Dyson is driven by a simple mission: to solve the problems that others seem to ignore.  From the humble beginnings of the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner, Dyson is now a global research and technology company with engineering, research, manufacturing and testing operations in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The company employs 14,000 people globally including 6,000 engineers and scientists. Its portfolio of engineering expertise, supported by a £3 million per week investment into R&D, encompasses areas from solid-state batteries and high-speed digital motors to machine learning and robotics.

Alongside its expansive technology evolution, Dyson has spent the past two decades supporting engineering education in the UK through its charitable arm, the James Dyson Foundation. The James Dyson Foundation engages at all stages of the engineering pipeline, from providing free resources and workshops to primary and secondary schools to supporting students in higher education through bursaries, PhD funding and capital donations to improve engineering facilities.

It was against this backdrop of significant investment in innovation and genuine passion for engineering education that Sir James Dyson chose to take a significant next step and set up his own higher education provider: the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

The ambition was always to establish an independent higher education provider, able to deliver and award its own degrees under the New Degree Awarding Powers provisions created by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. But rather than wait the years that it would take for the requisite regulatory frameworks to appear and associated applications to be made and quality assurance processes to be passed, the decision was made to make an impact in engineering education as quickly as possible, by beginning delivery in partnership with an established university.

Finding the right partner

The search for the right university partner began by setting some guiding principles; the non-negotiable expectations that any potential partner would be expected to meet, grounded in Dyson’s industrial expertise and insight into developing high-calibre engineering talent.

1.An interdisciplinary programme

Extensive discussions with Dyson’s engineering leaders, as well as a review of industry trends, made one thing very clear: the engineers of the future would need to be interdisciplinarians, able to understand mechanical, electronic and software engineering, joining the dots between disciplines to develop complex, connected products. Any degree programme delivered at the Dyson Institute would need to reflect that – alongside industrial relevance and technical rigour.

2. Delivered entirely on the Dyson Campus

It was essential that delivery of the degree programme took place on the same site on which learners would be working as Undergraduate Engineers, ensuring a holistic experience. There could be no block release of learners from the workplace for weeks at a time: teaching needed to be integrated into learners’ working weeks, supporting the immediate application of learning and maintaining integration into the workplace community.  

3. Actively supported by the Dyson Institute

This would not be a bipartisan relationship between employer and training provider. The fledgling Dyson Institute would play an active role in the experience of the learners, contributing to feedback and improvements and gaining direct experience of higher education activity by shadowing the provider.

WMG, University of Warwick

Dyson entered into discussions with a range of potential partners. But WMG, University of Warwick immediately stood out from the crowd.

Industrial partnership was already at the heart of WMG’s model. In 1980 Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya founded WMG to deliver his vision to improve the competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing sector through the application of value-adding innovation, new technologies and skills development. Four decades later, WMG continues to drive innovation through its pioneering research and education programmes, working in partnership with private and public organisations to deliver a real impact on the economy, society and the environment.

WMG is an international role model for how universities and businesses can successfully work together; part of a Top 10 UK ranked and Top 100 world-ranked university.

WMG’s expertise in working with industrial partners meant that they understood the importance of flexibility and were willing to evolve their approach to meet Dyson’s expectations – from working through the administrative challenge of supporting 100% delivery on the Dyson Campus, to developing a new degree apprenticeship programme.

Academics at WMG worked closely with Dyson engineers, who offered their insight into the industrial relevance of the existing programme – regularly travelling to WMG to discuss their observations in person and develop new modules. This resulted in a degree with a decreased focus on group work and project management, skills that learners would gain in the workplace at Dyson, and an increased focus on software, programming and more technically focused modules.

Importantly, WMG was supportive of Dyson’s intention to set up an entirely independent higher education provider. Rather than see a potential competitor, WMG saw the opportunity to play an important part in shaping the future of engineering education, to engage in reciprocal learning and development alongside a start-up HE provider and to hone its portfolio for future industrial partnerships.

The programme

In September 2017, the Dyson Institute opened its doors to its first cohort of 33 Undergraduate Engineers onto a BEng in Engineering degree apprenticeship, delivered over four years and awarded by the University of Warwick.

Two days per week are dedicated to academic study. The first day is a full day of teaching, with lecturers from WMG travelling to the Dyson Campus to engage in onsite delivery. The second day is a day of self-study, with lecturers available to answer questions and help embed learning. The remaining three days are spent working on live engineering projects within Dyson.

The first two years of the programme are deliberately generalist, while years three and four offer an opportunity to specialise. This academic approach is complemented in the workplace, with Undergraduate Engineers spending their first two years rotating through six different workplace teams, from electronics and software to research and product development, before choosing a single workplace team in which to spend their final two years. Final year projects are based on work undertaken in that team.

The Dyson Institute enhances WMG’s provision in a variety of ways, including administration of the admissions process, the provision of teaching and learning facilities, pastoral support, health and wellbeing support, social and extra-curricular opportunities, monitoring of student concerns and professional development support.  

Key enhancements include the provision of Student Support Advisors (one per cohort), a dedicated resource to manage learners’ workplace experience, quarterly Wellbeing and Development Days and the Summer Series, a professional development programme designed to address the broader set of skills engineers need, which takes the place of academic delivery across July and August.

Continuous improvement  

The collaborative partnership between Dyson, the Dyson Institute and WMG, the University of Warwick did not end when delivery began. Instead, the focus turned to iteration and improvement.

Dyson Institute and WMG programme leadership hold regular meetings to discuss plans, progress and challenges. These conversations are purposefully frank, with honesty on both sides allowing concerns to be raised as soon as they are noted. An important voice in these conversations is that of the student body, whose ‘on the ground experience’ is represented not only through the traditional course representatives, but through stream and workplace representatives.

Even as the Dyson Institute has begun independent delivery (it welcomed its first Dyson Institute-registered Undergraduate Engineers in September 2021), both partners remain dedicated to improving the student experience. The current focus is on increasing WMG’s onsite presence as well as the regularity of joint communications to the student body, with a view to supporting a more streamlined approach to challenge resolution.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Research

Author: Dr Salma .M.S. Al Arefi (University of Leeds)

Keywords: Science and Social Capitals, Sense of Belonging, Intersectionality, Student Success

Abstract: Being in a marginalised position due to feeling of otherness because of one’s gender as well as intersecting identity can create psychological hidden barriers. Coupled with science and social capitals such variables are key determines of student’s self-concept of engineering self-efficacy, competencies, and abilities. The impact of being othered may not only be limited to interest for participation in engineering but could extend beyond and significantly affect student engagement, success, and affiliation with engineering. This could impact students’ sense of belonging to their degree programme, university, and discipline, leading to adverse impacts ranging from low engagement to low attainment, or discontinuations. Such experiences can be greatly exacerbated for students with intersecting identities (‘double, triple, jeopardy’), e.g., a female student who identifies as a first-generation, working-class, disabled, commuter, carer, neurodiverse or mature student. This report presents work on progress on a student-centred interventional case study on exploring the impact of the intersectional lived experiences of underrepresented, disadvantaged and minoritised student groups in engineering beyond obvious gender and pre-university qualifications characteristics.

 

1.     Problem Statement

Initiatives on closing the technical skills gap remain limited to access to either engineering education or the workplace.  Identifying and supporting students facing barriers to continuation can be key to enhancing student success in a way that bridges the gap between the ignition of interest and transition to the engineering industry.  Early but sustained engagement throughout the life cycle of an engineering student is however vital to cultivate students’ sense of belonging to their modules, degree programmes and the wider industry. That would in turn support the formation of their engineering identity.

Gendered identity, as well as pre-university qualifications, are yet perceived to exert the strongest force for marginalisation and underrepresentation in engineering education and the workplace. The impact intersecting identities can have in relation to ignition of interest, participation, as well as the formation of engineering identity, also need consideration.  Along with gender, characteristics such as race, class, age, or language can have an added impact on already minoritized individuals (the ‘double, triple, quadrant…. jeopardy’), whereby the experience of exclusion and otherness can be exacerbated by overlapping marginalised identities. Coupled with the self-concept of own science capital, efficacies, and competencies [1-2], the formation of engineering identity could be expressed as a direct function of a sense of inclusion or otherwise exclusion [3]. Within this context, such an inherent feeling of connectedness describes the extent to which the lived experience of individuals is acknowledged valued and included [4], which is a healthy fertilizer for the formation of engineering identity. Perceived threats to one’s belonging due to a feeling of exclusion or rejection could on the contrary negatively impact one’s perception of self-efficacy and hence affiliation with engineering.

2.     Project Aims

The role of effect in learning to foster a sense of belonging and enhance a coherent sense of self and form the engineering identity has attracted growing pedagogical research interest. In academia, a sense of belonging has been shown to excrete the largest force on one’s intent to participate in engineering and to be the key sustainable vehicle for successful progressions. Because engineering learning activities are pursued in complex social interactions, acknowledging, and understanding the role of belonging in academic success is key to fostering an inclusive culture that encourages and recognises contributions from all.  It is hoped that the project outcomes can advise on understanding to support underrepresented, marginalised and minoritised students overcome self-perceived psychological barriers to their degree programme, university, or engineering workplace. The intersectional lens of the project is aimed to uncover key culprits that impact engineering identity formation for traditionally underrepresented, disadvantaged and minoritised students beyond obvious gender and pre-university education characteristics.

Outcomes will role model fostering an inclusive culture where engineering students from all backgrounds feel that they belong in an effort to support engineering higher education institutions to adhere to the changes introduced by the Engineering Council to the U.K. Standards for Professional Engineering Competency and Commitment around recognising inclusivity and diversity. This should be applicable to other STEM-related disciplines.

3.     Decolonial partnership

The project centres on students’ voices through a decolonial participation approach that acknowledges participants as co-researchers and enables them to take an active role in the co-creation of the project deliverables. Participation will be incentivised through recognition (authorship, certifications) as well as financial incentives.  The use of evidence-based active listening to enable students to share their lived experiences of belonging through storytelling and story sharing is hoped to create a safe space to empower and acknowledge student voices so that every student feel that they matter to their degree programme, university, and discipline. That in turn would cultivate authentic learner identity and a sense of belonging.

4.     Outcomes and future work

The findings are hoped to advise on a sustainable support approach whereby early and sustained engagement (throughout the student lifecycle from access to continuation, attainment, and progression) are prioritised to facilitate the transition of students into and from Engineering. Co-created artefacts from the project will be used to support access and continuation by providing examples of lived experiences for prospective students to associate with. Fostering a sense of belonging is hoped to have a direct impact on learner engagement, success, and attainment as well as enhancing students’ ability to progress towards achieving their unique goals beyond their degree.

The second phase of the 2-year project will involve student recruitment and selection, interventional listening, storytelling-based approaches and co-creation of artefacts.

Acknowledgement

The work is carried out as part of the fellowship of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence in partnership with Dr Kendi Guantai, from Leeds Business School, Marketing Division and Dr Nadine Cavigioli Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds.

References

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Professor Sarah Hitt SFHEA (NMITE); Professor Raffaella Ocone OBE FREng FRSE (Heriot Watt University); Professor Thomas Lennerfors (Uppsala University); Claire Donovan (Royal Academy of Engineering); Isobel Grimley (Engineering Professors’ Council).

Topic:  Developing customised algorithms for student support.

Engineering disciplines: Computing, AI, Data.

Ethical issues: Bias, Social responsibility, Risk, Privacy.

Professional situations: Informed consent, Public health and safety, Conflicts with leadership / management, Legal implications.

Educational level: Beginner.

Educational aim: Develop ethical sensitivity. Ethical sensitivity is the broad cognisance of ethical issues and the ability to see how these might affect others.

 

Learning and teaching notes:

This case study involves the employees of a small software start-up that is creating a customised student support chatbot for a Sixth Form college. The employees come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives on the motivations behind their work, which leads to some interpersonal conflict. The team must also identify the ethical issues and competing values that arise in the course of developing their algorithm.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

The dilemma in this case is presented in two parts which build in complexity and navigate between personal, professional, and societal contexts. If desired, a teacher can use Part one in isolation, but Part two develops and complicates the concepts presented in Part one to provide for additional learning. Pre-reading ‘Ethics of Care and Justice’ is recommended, though not required, for engaging with Part two. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:

 

Learning and teaching resources:

 

Summary:

Exaba is a small, three-person software startup. Like all small businesses, it has been struggling with finances during the pandemic. The company began selling its services across a variety of industry sectors but is now trying to expand by developing software solutions for the growing education technology sector.

Ivan, Exaba’s founder and CEO, was thrilled to be contracted by a growing local Sixth Form College in North West England, NorthStar Academy, to create a chatbot that will optimise student support services. These services include ensuring student safety and wellbeing, study skills advice, careers guidance, counselling, and the identification for the need and implementation of extra learning support. It is such a large project that Ivan has been able to bring in Yusuf, a university student on placement from a computer systems programme, to help Nadja, Exaba’s only full-time software engineer. Ivan views the chatbot contract as not only a financial windfall that can help get the company back on track, but as the first project in a new product-development revenue stream.

Nadja and Yusuf have been working closely with the NorthStar Academy’s Principal, Nicola, to create ‘Alice’: the custom student-support chatbot to ensure that she is designed appropriately and is fit for purpose. Nicola has seen growing evidence that chatbots can identify when students are struggling with a range of issues from attendance to anxiety. She has also seen that they can be useful in helping administrators understand what students need, how to help them more quickly, and where to invest more resources to make support most effective.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: What moral or ethical issues might be at stake or arise in the course of this project?

2. Discussion: What professional or legal standards might apply to the development of Alice?

3. Discussion: What design choices might Nadja and Yusuf have to consider as they build the chatbot software in order for it to conform to those standards?

4. Discussion: is there anything risky about giving cognitive chatbots human names in general, or a female name specifically?

5. Activity: Undertake stakeholder mapping to elicit value assumptions and motivations.

6. Activity: Research any codes of ethics that might apply to AI in education, or policies / laws that apply to controlling and processing student data.

7. Activity: View the following TED talk and have a discussion on gender in digital assistants: Siri and Alexa are AI Built for the Past by Emily Liu.

 

Dilemma – Part one:

After undertaking work to ensure GDPR compliance through transparency, consent, and anonymisation of the data harvested by interactions with Alice, Nadja and Yusuf are now working on building the initial data set that the chatbot will call upon to provide student support. The chatbot’s information to students can only be as good as the existing data it has available to draw from. To enable this, Nicola has agreed to provide Exaba with NorthStar Academy’s existing student databases that span many years and cover both past and present students. While this data – including demographics, academic performances, and interactions with support services – is anonymised, Yusuf has begun to feel uncomfortable. One day, when the entire team was together discussing technical challenges, Yusuf said “I wonder what previous students would think if they found out that we were using all this information about them, without their permission?”

Ivan pointed out, “Nicola told us it was okay to use. They’re the data controllers, so it’s their responsibility to resolve that concern, not ours. We can’t tell them what to do with their own data. All we need to be worried about is making sure the data processing is done appropriately.”

Nadja added, “Plus, if we don’t use an existing data set, Alice will have to learn from scratch, meaning she won’t be as effective at the start. Wouldn’t it be better for our chatbot to be as intelligent and helpful as possible right away? Otherwise, she could put existing students at a disadvantage.”

Yusuf fell silent, figuring that he didn’t know as much as Ivan and Nadja. Since he was just on a placement, he felt that it wasn’t his place to push the issue any further with full-time staff.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Expand upon Yusuf’s feelings of discomfort. What values or principles is this emotion drawing on?

2. Discussion: Do you agree with Yusuf’s perspective, or with Ivan’s and Nadja’s? Why?

3. Discussion: Does / should Yusuf have the right to voice any concerns or objections to his employer?

4. Discussion: Do / should previous NorthStar students have the right to control what the academy does with their data? To what extent, and for how long?

5. Discussion: Is there / should there be a difference between how data about children is used and that of adults? Why?

6. Discussion: Should a business, like Exaba, ever challenge its client, like NorthStar Academy, about taking potentially unethical actions?

7. Technical activity: Undertake a technical activity such as creating a process flow diagram, pieces of code and UI / UX design that either obscure or reinforce consent.

8. Activity: Undertake argument mapping to diagram and expand on the reasoning and evidence used by Yusuf, Nadja, and Ivan in their arguments.

9. Activity: Apply ethical theories to those arguments.  

10. Discussion: What ethical principles are at stake? Are there potentially any conflicts or contradictions arising from those principles?

 

Dilemma – Part two:

Nicola, too, was under pressure. The academy’s Board had hired her as Principal to improve NorthStar’s rankings in the school performance table, to get the college’s finances back on track, and support the government efforts at ‘levelling up’ This is why one of Nicola’s main specifications for Alice is that she be able to flag students at risk of not completing their qualifications. Exaba will have to develop an algorithm that can determine what those risk factors are.

In a brainstorming session Nadja began listing some ideas on the whiteboard. “Ethnic background, family income, low marks, students who fit that profile from the past and ultimately dropped out, students who engaged with support services a lot, students with health conditions . . .”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Yusuf said. “This feels a little bit like profiling to me. You know, like we think kids from certain neighbourhoods are unlikely to succeed so we’re building this thing to almost reinforce that they don’t.”

“The opposite is true!” Ivan exclaimed. “This algorithm will HELP exactly those students.”

“I can see how that’s the intention,” Yusuf acknowledged. “But I’ve had so many friends and neighbours experience well-intentioned but not appropriate advice from mentors and counsellors who think the only solution is for everyone to complete qualifications and go to university. This is not the best path for everybody!”

Nadja had been listening carefully. “There is something to what Yusuf is saying: Is it right to nudge students to stay in a programme that’s actually not a best fit for them? Could Alice potentially give guidance that is contrary to what a personal tutor, who knows the student personally, might advise? I don’t know if that’s the sort of algorithm we should develop.”

At this point Ivan got really frustrated with his employees: “This is the proprietary algorithm that’s going to save this company!” he shouted. “Never mind the rights and wrongs of it. Think of the business potential, not to mention all the schools and students this is going to help. The last thing I need is a mutiny from my team. We have the client’s needs to think about, and that’s it.”

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: compare an approach to this case through the ethics of care versus the ethics of justice. What different factors come into play? How should these be weighed? Might one approach lead to a better course of action than another? Why?

2. Discussion: what technical solutions, if any, could help mitigate Yusuf and Nadja’s concerns?

3. Activity: imagine that Ivan agrees that this is a serious enough concern that they need to address it with Nicola. Role play a conversation between Ivan and Nicola.

4. Activity: undertake a classroom debate on whether or not Alice has the potential to reinforce negative stereotypes. Variations include alley debate, stand where you stand, adopt and support opposite instinct.

 

Enhancements:

An enhancement for this case study can be found here.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

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