Have you used our Engineering Ethics Toolkit in your teaching? We want to hear from you!

February 2022 saw the launch of our Engineering Ethics Toolkit, with a range of case studies and guidance articles available to help engineering educators embed ethics into their modules and curriculum.

In March 2023 we published further guidance articles and case studies, as well as enhancements on some of the classroom activities suggested within our original cases. June 2023 saw the launch of the interactive Ethics Explorer, which replaced the static engineering ethics curriculum map from 2015.

More and more engineering educators are telling us that they use these resources, and are finding them invaluable in their teaching. A brave few have contributed blogs, detailing their methods of using and adapting our case studies and classroom activities, and giving an honest appraisal of their own learning curve in teaching ethics.

We’ve heard about leaning in to your discomfort, first time fear, and letting students flex their ethical muscles.

We would love to publish more of this type of content. We want to hear your experiences, good or bad, along with tips, potential pitfalls, what you added to our content in your teaching, and what you and your students got out of the experience. If you have students who are enthusiastic about sharing their thoughts, we would love to hear from them too.

We’d like you to send us your blogs and testimonials, whether that be a couple of sentences or paragraphs, or a full article with diagrams, or anything in between.

You can submit your blog post or testimonial here, or email Wendy Attwell to discuss your submission first.

We look forward to hearing your experiences.

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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: Sarah Junaid (Aston University); Yann Serreau (CESI); Alison Gwynne-Evans (University of Cape Town); Patric Granholm (Åland University of Applied Sciences); Kathryn Fee (Queen’s University Belfast); Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University).

Keywords: Pedagogy.

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 module design

 

Using a constructive alignment tool to plan ethics teaching:

Incorporating ethics into an already-packed engineering curriculum can be an overwhelming prospect. But as more accreditation bodies are requiring engineering programmes to evidence the inclusion of ethics, this activity is becoming essential. Recently, a planning tool has been developed by a team of academics that you can use to constructively align your learning outcomes with activities and assessments that positively reinforce the inclusion of ethics.

For instance, in a year 2 Mechanical Engineering course, an existing outcome might read: “Use CAD modelling and additive manufacturing in the product development process and embed control sensors, actuators and physical hardware into a complete system.” As it is written, it contains no reference to ethics. But after comparing this outcome against language found in AHEP4, the CDIO Syllabus, and the Learning Landscape found in this Toolkit’s Ethics Explorer, you might revise it to read: “Use CAD, modelling and additive manufacturing in the product development process and embed control sensors, actuators and physical sensors to design a safe and complete system to address a societal need.” The minor changes to the language (shown in italics) ensure that this outcome reinforces the ethical dimension of engineering and encourages the ethical development of engineers. These changes also then inform the language used in activity briefs and the criteria by which students are assessed.

This tool has been used in workshops at Aston University and the 2023 SEFI conference, and is endorsed by CDIO.

Download this planning tool:

 

Engineering Ethics Teaching – Planning Tool Worksheet

Stage1: Resources – Tabulate all relevant resources and their Learning Outcomes or Programme Outcomes:

What are your Learning Outcomes for the topic you will teach? Please list them here.

Highlight the verbs in blue and the ethical topics in red; this will help highlight any potential gaps.

Program level (My module, course, class, or lecture)  

Accreditation level

 

National or Professional level ethics map or framework (optional) International level
Reference/ Source [Your University and course title] [Your national accreditation board] [e.g. codes of conduct, code of ethics, ethical principles, suggested teaching approaches] [e.g. CDIO Syllabus, ABET, Washington Accord]
Learning Outcome 1 [Write current Learning Outcome here] [Copy and paste the relevant competency here] [Copy and paste the relevant guidance here] [Copy and paste the relevant competency/skill here]
Learning Outcome 2 Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here
Learning Outcome 3 Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here

 

Stage 2: Re-write Learning Outcomes (LOs): 

Learning Outcomes Re-worded Learning Outcomes Rationale
LO1.

[Copy and paste LO from Stage I table here]

LO1.

[Re-write LO and highlight verbs in bold here]

[Justify your changes or if unchanged, justify why here]
LO2. LO2. Enter text here Enter text here
LO3. LO3. Enter text here Enter text here

 

Stage 3: Ethics Teaching Tools – Evidence-based tools and resources to help with teaching engineering ethics:

 

Three Examples of Ethics Teaching Models:

1. The Rest Model for Ethical Decision Making – Individual (Jones, 1991).

2. The Ethical Cycle – Problem-solving (Van de Poel & Royakkers, 2007).

3. The Innovent-E Model – Competencies – Language: French
(For access to competences in ethics contact Yann Serreau: yserreau@cesi.fr)

Note: you can use other models.

 

Stage 4: Constructive Alignment – Tabulate the LOs, activity and assessment, and ensure alignment:

My module – Learning Outcomes Learning & teaching activity Assessment
LO1.

[Copy and paste new LO from Stage II table here]
[What activity will support and prepare the student for the assessment?] [What assessment would be needed to demonstrate this new LO?]
LO2. Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here
LO3. Enter text here Enter text here Enter text here

 

 

Download this planning tool:

 

 

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.

Authors: Dr. Jude Bramton (University of Bristol); Elizabeth Robertson (University of Strathclyde); Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University).

Keywords: Collaboration; Pedagogy.

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 module design.

 

How to organise class sessions:

Engineering educators can find a wealth of ethics case studies in the Engineering Ethics Toolkit. Each one focuses on different disciplines, different areas of ethics learning, and different professional situations, meaning there is almost certainly a case study that could be embedded in one of your classes.

Even so, it can be difficult to know how to organise the delivery of the session. Fortunately, Toolkit contributors Jude Bramton of the University of Bristol and Elizabeth Robertson of the University of Strathclyde have put together diagrams that demonstrate their approaches. These processes can act as helpful guides for you as you integrate an Ethics case study in one of your engineering class sessions.

 

Jude Bramton’s class session organisation looks like this:

You can read more about her approach here.

 

Elizabeth Robertson’s class session organisation looks like this:

You can read more about her approach 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.

Elizabeth Robertson, Teaching Fellow in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at The University of Strathclyde, discusses how we need to move past our discomfort in order to teach ethics in engineering.

 

I could wax lyrical about the importance of engineering ethics for today’s students who are tomorrow’s engineers. However, there are lots of other articles that will do it much better than I can. All I’d say in short is that as educators, we know it’s important, our graduate employers tell us it’s important, and our accrediting bodies are looking for us to include it through our curriculum because they know it’s important too.

The task for us as educators then is to demonstrate the importance of ethics to our students and to offer students a learning experience that is relevant to them at whatever stage they are and that that will also offer the most impact – but as with so many things, that is easier said than done.

 

Getting comfortable with what the toolkit is and how to use it

I have used the Engineering Ethics Toolkit since its launch, and I cannot be a bigger proponent for its usefulness for staff or its impact on students’ learning. Educators are always challenged to design sessions that are engaging, participatory and have real student impact. With its range of case studies and really useful advice and guidance documents, the Engineering Ethics Toolkit does all three.

The documentation in the toolkit contains a mix of introductory material on what ethics is and why to integrate ethics education into modules alongside practical considerations including the ‘hows’ – best practice in teaching ethics and methods for assessment and evaluation.

 

Choosing a case study for your students

The suite of broad engineering ethics case studies means that there is a case study for a range of student needs (and there are often new ones on the horizon too). In my teaching that means sometimes I use case studies that are related to discipline-specific learning the students are currently undertaking so they can pull in technical knowledge and experience they have, and in other cases I choose something totally removed in order to allow students to spend more time with the ethical dimensions of a case and not get preoccupied with the technical.

 

The case studies I’ve used

During the last academic year we used the case study ‘Glass safety in a heritage building conversion’ with my first year groups, and that’s pretty far removed from the electrical, mechanical and computer science modules they take. That decision was intentional; the aim was to get students to concentrate on the principles of ethics, stakeholder mapping, stakeholder motivations and interpersonal dynamics and not be ‘distracted’ by the technical aspects. This was one class in a module centred around a sustainable design challenge and we used the Ethics toolkit to help students develop an understanding of the importance of economic, environmental and social factors. Working with a case study not in their exact engineering field helped students see that they must look beyond the technical to understand people – be they stakeholders, end users or community members. Students worked to make decisions on actions with honesty and integrity and to respect the public good. The students engaged really well in the session and there were some vibrant discussions on which actions were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and vitally the students grasped how stakeholder dynamics and dynamics of power in projects can affect outcomes.

In comparison, for my third year undergraduate students I intentionally chose a case study that would link to their hardware/software project that was upcoming, and connect closely to learning in their communications module: ‘Smart homes for older people with disabilities’. This meant that alongside stakeholder mapping we identified technical factors looking into possible routes of data leaks. Students engaged so well and were actively debating possible actions to take covering ethical, technical and legal implications. It pained me every time I had to cut conversations short so we could cover the full case study – so much so that this year we’re going to try and give them longer than an hour for the process.

 

Getting comfortable with the students in the lead

I use a participatory teaching methodology often. This means starting our 50 minutes together with student reflection, having 5/10 minutes of introductory talk and then rounds of group discussions. The students are therefore in the driving seat in the classroom – students set the tone and the pace. If they are having valuable, meaningful and worthwhile discussions and demonstrating valuable ethical discussions, my plans change. This means maybe not covering all parts of the case study  maybe skipping a stage or two of discussions that were in my plans. As long as the session’s objective are met, the students can write their own journey.

 

What my sessions look like

As the song goes, we start at the very beginning as it’s a very good places to start. That means first asking the students their current understanding of what ethics is – we did this first by using a word association activity, and asked what came to mind when they hear the term ‘ethics.’ Their answers in the word cloud below demonstrate a good maturity of thought to work from in the session. We then moved on to discuss when we should consider ethics – for us as individuals, members of society and as engineers.

What they said:

Building on from our prompting questions we then introduced the Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering and covering the four fundamental principles of ethics defined therein.

From there we worked with the toolkit and our case study of choice. Most case studies come in 2-4 ‘phases’, each with a bit more of the story that I’d briefly talk over, which we gave them printed and electronically. The phases often include a ‘dilemma’ for the protagonist and some questions for provoking thought and discussion or more technical work as is suitable. The questions and activity prompts that are within the case studies are invaluable to educators and students in helping design the session and for giving student groups a place to start if they are not sure how to tackle part of the story. We worked on a think-pair-share model asking individuals to think, groups to discuss, and then asking a few groups to report back to the room. One thing I want to do more of is asking different groups to role play as different stakeholders. Asking students to embed themselves in different perspectives can lead to some very valuable insights.

 

Getting comfortable in a room of differing views

Students worked in small groups with the case study and an important stage was asking groups to report back their thoughts. These were volunteered rather than cold-called and in asking for more groups to share I would prompt if anyone had a different view to make sure that a range of perspectives were heard. Though in fairness to the students they engaged so readily and enthusiastically that I often ran short of time rather than being left with ‘dead air’.

I have delivered ethics sessions to groups of 12, 30 and 100. In all cases it is important that all students feel heard and all views and perspectives respected. You need to make sure that an open, honest, and non-judgemental tone is set. This allows all students to feel they are free to ask questions and importantly share their perspectives, meaning that there is a big onus on the educator to act as a facilitator as much as a teacher.

Good facilitation is key. Some things to think about:

 

Getting comfortable with no absolutes

What is vital in running these sessions is offering some sort of conclusion when there is no ‘right’ answer. My third-year cohort knew that a class on ethics was in the schedule – that I was going to get them to answer Menti polls, work in small groups and report back to the room. These are my established teaching styles and by halfway through the semester the students are well used to it. What they weren’t prepared for was that in the end I wasn’t going to tell them a ‘right’ answer.

All the students I have worked on ethics with were somewhat disappointed when in the end they were not offered the ‘right’ answer for the ethical dilemmas posed. What I did do though was still offer them a conclusion to their learning. I point out some of the excellent examples of consideration and thought offered by groups to highlight themes from the four principles. It’s useful here too to point students to where they’ll apply their learning from the session in the short and long term. For my students their future projects all require ethics, inclusion and sustainability statements. It’s important though to also evidence where the learning will go beyond the classroom.

There are examples of cases that in hindsight there are clear cases of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ (you can pull examples of fields relevant to you, often cited is the Challenger tragedy and Ford Pinto Memo). What we conclude on though is getting comfortable with a lot of decision making professionally being in the ‘middle’ – a complex space with multiple competing factors. Engineers need to work with the principles of ethics to guide us to make sound and well-informed judgements.

It’s essential that tomorrow’s graduate engineers understand that ethics is not a ‘tack on’ statement at the end of a project proposal but rather that ethics is a core part of the role of an engineer. Using the Engineering Ethics Toolkit to help integrate ethics into the core of their education today is a very good way to do that. I recommend the Engineering Ethics Toolkit to all educators – the wealth of the resource cannot be understated in its support to a teacher’s session design and, most importantly, to a student’s learning.

You can find out more about getting involved or contributing to the Engineering Ethics Toolkit here.

 

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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.

EPC CEO Johnny Rich

We were very pleased to be accepted to present a workshop at the 2023 SEFI Conference in September: Using a practical toolkit for embedding ethics in the engineering curriculum.

This workshop emphasised the need to embed ethics into the engineering curriculum, highlighted that behaviours such as inclusivity and sustainability must become instinctive – golden threads running through everything that engineers think and do – and posited that engineering programmes must be proactive in bringing engineering ethics to the fore in order to equip future engineers with the skills and mindset they need to succeed.

The workshop showcased the Engineering Ethics Toolkit and introduced a pragmatic approach to integrating ethics content into teaching, using examples and a detailed and interactive curriculum map, which connects the elements of the toolkit.

One of the presentations used in the workshop – Using a constructive alignment tool to plan ethics teaching – can be accessed and downloaded from here.

Sarah Junaid (Aston University)

 

Sarah Junaid (Aston University)

 

Sarah Jayne Hitt (NMITE), Johnny Rich (EPC), Stella Fowler (EPC), Sarah Junaid (Aston University)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also view this post here.

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.

The Engineering Ethics Toolkit is a suite of interactive resources, guidance and teaching materials that enables educators to easily introduce ethics into the education of every engineer. We would like to ensure that all universities with Engineering departments are aware of the toolkit and able to make use of it.

To this end, we’ve produced a pack of resources that can be distributed to relevant departments and staff members such as Engineering department heads, staff and administrators, as well as Vice-Chancellors, Deans, and anyone else who may find our resource useful in teaching or curriculum development.

We would be very grateful if you could share these resources, and encourage you to explore and use them in your teaching.

Our pack of resources to help you present and promote the Engineering Ethics Toolkit contains the following files, and can be downloaded individually below, or as a pack from here.

Information on the toolkit (PDF)
01. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – key talking points
02. Media release July 2023 – Engineering Professors’ Council
03. Engineering Ethics – overview

Sample resources (PDF)
04. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Advice and Guidance – Why integrate ethics in engineering
05. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Case study – Developing an internet constellation
06. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Case enhancement – Developing an internet constellation

Promotional display posters (PDF)
07. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – poster
08. Ethics Explorer – poster
09. Ethics Ambassadors – poster

Promotional images (JPG)
10. Engineering Ethics Toolkit Logo
11. Ethics Explorer front page
12. Students at TEDI-London
13. Students in discussion

PowerPoint slides (pptx)
14. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Overview
15. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Talking points
16. Engineering Ethics Toolkit – Ethics Ambassadors

You can download the entire pack from here.

If you have any questions or comments about this resource, please contact w.attwell@epc.ac.uk.

 

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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.

Royal Academy of Engineering logo“In January 2022, GoodCorporation was tasked with undertaking a Review of Ethical Culture and Practices in UK engineering. The need for the review was one of several actions identified in a report by the Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG), whose remit is to provide leadership and advice to help develop an enhanced culture of ethical behaviour in UK engineering.

The overall objective was to develop a benchmark from which the UK engineering profession can periodically audit and report on ethical performance in UK engineering and identify areas for improvement in ethical culture and practice. The exercise would also allow benchmarking against other professions and identify relevant learnings from them.” – The Royal Academy of Engineering

 

 

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.

Media release

15th June 2023

The Engineering Professors’ Council today announced the launch of innovative new content for their Engineering Ethics Toolkit, an online resource that helps educators to build ethics directly into their engineering teaching.  

Created by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Engineering Ethics Toolkit addresses the issue that relatively few university engineering courses explicitly embed ethics teaching throughout the curriculum.   

The ability to tell right from wrong – and better from worse – is as vital to an engineer as maths or design skills, yet many UK higher education institutions fall short in effectively developing these abilities in future engineering professionals. The Engineering Ethics Toolkit solves this problem with a suite of interactive resources, guidance and teaching materials that aim to engage educators, and enable them to introduce ethics into the education and training of every engineer, allowing the UK to position itself as a leader in promoting engineering as a force to improve the world for people and the planet.  

As well as offering advice to educators who want to teach ethics but are not sure where to begin, the Toolkit features ready-to-use classroom resources that are rooted in educational best practice and align with the Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP) criteria, which are the conditions for courses to receive professional accreditation.   

These case studies and other teaching materials highlight current and emerging real-world issues and can be used and adapted by anyone. The latest additions to the Engineering Ethics Toolkit include the interactive Ethics Explorer, which helps educators understand, plan for and implement ethics learning, and 30 new academic guidance articles, case studies and comprehensive classroom activities created and developed by academic and industry professionals.  

Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Education and Diversity at the Royal Academy of Engineering, comments: “There has never been a more crucial time to ensure that the next generation of engineers have the skills and training to critically address ethical questions around issues such as artificial intelligence and sustainability. It is vital for the future of our profession, as well as the future of our society and planet, that every engineer develops the ability to make responsible and informed decisions regarding the ethics of their work.”  

Raffaella Ocone OBE FREng FRSE, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, remarks: “As engineers and as educators we want to improve the world. When we teach ethics within our engineering degrees, we teach the ability to determine what is wrong and what is right, what is a mistake and what is an improvement. The Engineering Ethics Toolkit makes it easy to include ethics in our teaching. It is a treasure trove for educators.”  

The Engineering Ethics Toolkit is a free to use suite of resources, available at epc.ac.uk/resources/toolkit/ethics-toolkit   

To hear about forthcoming Engineering Ethics Toolkit webinars and workshops, join the EPC’s Ethics Ambassadors community by emailing press@epc.ac.uk 

Ends

Notes to editors

Contact

Contact: Johnny Rich
Email: press@epc.ac.uk
Phone: 0781 111 4292
Website: epc.ac.uk/resources/toolkit/ethics-toolkit
Twitter: @EngProfCouncil
#EngineeringEthicsToolkit
#EngineeringEthics

 

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The Ethics Explorer is an interactive tool that was built to help engineering educators navigate the landscape of engineering ethics education. It is the newest resource in the Engineering Ethics Toolkit.

Whether you’re an ethics veteran or brand new to teaching ethics within engineering, the Ethics Explorer allows you to find your own path through what can sometimes seem like a wilderness.

Choose a path depending on what you want to do. Improve your own ethics learning? Plan for ethics learning? Integrate or assess an ethics activity? Each path leads you through content such as learning outcomes, graduate attributes, and accreditation criteria, while also pointing you to supporting activities and resources linked to the content.

The Ethics Explorer replaces the static engineering ethics curriculum map published in 2015, although there is also a printable version available in PDF form, that summarises content from the interactive Explorer.

The content in the Ethics Explorer is subject to changes in context and should be customised to suit the various forms that
an engineering degree can take. It is intended as a non-prescriptive resource – as a way of suggesting to educators how ethics might comprise a distinct theme in an engineering undergraduate degree. This version of the Ethics Explorer is focused on the UK higher education context, but it may be adapted for use in other countries.

The Ethics Explorer is a free to use resource, accessible to all. Start exploring here.

Have you used the Ethics Explorer? Tell us about your experience – what you loved, what is missing, and what could be improved. Fill out our feedback form, or email w.attwell@epc.ac.uk.

 

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Dr. Jude Bramton of the University of Bristol discusses her first-hand experience of using the Engineering Ethics Toolkit and what lessons she learnt.

 

Starting off

Let me set the scene. It’s a cold January morning after the winter break and I need to prepare some Engineering Ethics content for our third year Mechanical Engineers. The students have never been taught this topic, and I have never taught it.

I’m apprehensive – many of our students are fantastic engineering scientists/mathematicians and I’m not sure how they will engage with a subject that is more discussive and, unlike their more technical subjects, a subject with no single correct answer.

Nonetheless, my task is to design a 50-minute session for ca. 180 undergraduate Mechanical Engineers to introduce the concept of Engineering Ethics and start to build this thinking into their engineering mindset. The session will be in a flatbed teaching space, where students will be sitting in groups they have been working in for a number of weeks.

For a bit more context, the content is assessed eventually as part of a group coursework where students assess the ethical implications of a specific design concept they have come up with.

 

Designing the session with the help of the Toolkit

From doing a little bit of research online, I came across the Engineering Ethics Toolkit from the EPC – and I was so grateful.

I started off by reviewing all 8 case studies available at the time, and reading them in the context of my session. I picked one that I felt was most appropriate for the level and the subject matter and chose the Solar Panels in a Desert Oil Field case study.

I used the case study in a way that worked for me – that’s the beauty of this resource, you can make it what you want.

I put my session together using the case study as the basis, and including the Engineering Council’s principles of Engineering Ethics and some hand-picked tools from some of Toolkit’s guidance articles – for example, I used the 7-step guide to ethical decision making.

I used the text directly from the case study to make my slides. I introduced the scenario in parts, as recommended, and took questions/thoughts verbally from the students as we went. The students then had access to all of the scenario text on paper, and had 15-20 minutes to agree three decisions on the ethical dilemmas presented in the scenario. Students then had to post their group’s answers on PollEverywhere.

The overall session structure looked like this:

 

How did it go?

When I ran the session, one key component was ensuring I set my expectations for student participation and tolerance at the start of the session. I openly told students that, if they feel comfortable, they will need to be vocal and participative in the session to get the most from it. I literally asked them – “Is that something we think we can do?” – I got nods around the room (so far, so good).

Overall, the session went better than I could have expected. In fact, I think it was the most hands up I have ever had during a class. Not only did we hear from students who hadn’t openly contributed to class discussion before, but I had to actively stop taking points to keep to time. It made me wonder whether this topic, being presented as one with no wrong or right answers, enabled more students to feel comfortable contributing to a large class discussion. Students were very tolerant of each others’ ideas, and we encouraged differences of opinion.

For the small group discussions, I left a slide up with the three ethical dilemmas and the 7-step guide to ethical decision making as a prompt for those that needed it. During the small group discussions, I and supporting teaching staff wandered around the room observing, listening and helping to facilitate discussion, although this was rarely needed as engagement was fantastic. The small group sessions also allowed opportunities for contribution from those students who perhaps felt less comfortable raising points in the wider class discussion.

To my delight, the room was split on many decisions, allowing us to discuss all aspects of the dilemmas when we came to summarise as a larger class. I even observed one group being so split they were playing rock-paper-scissors to make their decision – not quite the ethical decision making tool we might advertise, but representative of the dilemma and engagement of students nonetheless!

 

Student feedback

I asked our Student Cohort Representative to gather some informal feedback from students who attended the session. Overall, the response was overwhelmingly positive, here are a few snippets:

“It was the best lecture I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

“The most interesting session, had me engaged.”

“It was the first time learning about the connections between engineering and ethics and it was really useful.”

“I enjoyed the participation and inclusion with the students during the lesson. It has favoured the growth of personal opinions and a greater clarity of the subject and its points of view.  Furthermore, the addition of real-life examples gave more depth to the topic, facilitating listening and learning.”

“The session was very engaging and I liked the use of examples… This whole unit has showed me how there are more aspects of engineering to consider apart from just designing something. Engineers must always think of ethics and I believe this session has demonstrated that well.”

And finally, when asked “What was your overall impression of the session?” a student replied Interesting and curious.” – what more could you ask for?

It was such a pleasant surprise to me that not only did students engage in the session, but they actively enjoyed the topic.

 

I’ve run it once, how would I improve it?

One thing I would do differently next time would be to allow even more time for discussion if at all possible. As discussed, I had to stop and move on, despite the engagement in the room at certain points.

I also reflect how it might have gone if the students weren’t as engaged at the start. If you have other teaching staff in the room, you can use them to demonstrate that it’s ok to have differences of opinion. A colleague and I openly disagreed with each other on a topic, and demonstrated that this was ok. Additionally, if larger class engagement doesn’t work for you, you could also go straight to the small group discussion.

 

In summary (and top tips!)

I now feel very comfortable, and excited, to be teaching engineering ethics. It has now also catalysed more content to be created to embed this theme further in our programme – so it doesn’t just become that “one off” lecture. However, I think providing specific time on this subject was very beneficial for the students, it gave them time and space to reflect on such a complex topic.

My takeaways and recommendations from this experience have been:

All in all, I would recommend the resources on the Engineering Ethics Toolkit to anyone. They can be easily adapted to your own contexts and there is a plethora of resources and knowledge that are proven to engage students and get them thinking ethically.

You can find out more about getting involved or contributing to the Engineering Ethics Toolkit here.

 

This blog is also available here.

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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