Finding A "Place" For Reading And Discussion Courses: Design And Assessment Of "Social And Ethical Impacts Of Technology"
2007 Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
This paper discusses the development and assessment of a reading and discussion course entitled "Social and Ethical Impacts of Technology." Taught in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Engineering Professional Development by members of the department's technical communication faculty, the course combined assigned readings, an in-class and an online discussion, and an end-of-semester writing assignment to help students achieve the following learning outcomes: • Outcome 1:
... • Outcome 1: Articulate connections among engineering, ethics, community, history, social change, and politics by actively listening and participating in a small discussion setting • Outcome 2: Recognize and work with the role of uncertainty in engineering and its relationship to social and ethical dimensions • Outcome 3: Analyze and assess the social and ethical impact of technology on society by critically thinking about the readings and discussion topics • Outcome 4: Communicate effectively by writing and speaking • Outcome 5: Identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems related to professional and ethical responsibilities, including interdisciplinary approaches to said problems Our three-pronged assessment scheme measured success of the learning outcomes through (1) interviews with a student focus group and with individual instructors; (2) written student surveys, including a short mid-semester evaluation and Elaine Seymour's Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) protocol at the end of the semester; and (3) review of the online discussion forum transcripts and the final research projects. Results suggest that students satisfactorily achieved Outcomes 1-3 but that adjustments should be made to the course to help students better succeed with Outcomes 4-5. The authors discuss future plans for the course as well as exportable lessons for those interested in trying to find a place for similar courses at their own institutions. Throughout the paper, the authors also argue that flexible, interdisciplinary, student-centered discussion courses like this one have the potential to teach some of the ABET professional skills in way that students and faculty alike will find refreshing, exciting, and effective.