Building Better Worlds: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Engineering Ethics Pedagogy

Amy Schroeder
2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings   unpublished
This paper, titled "Building Better Worlds: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Engineering Ethics," is a work-in-progress empirical assessment of the value of a multimodal, interdisciplinary approach for ethics training and development. The paper, which describes a freshman seminar titled "GESM 121: Science, Literature, and Ethics," commences with a review of relevant literature in ethics pedagogy. Survey data from students demonstrates the success of this unique and innovative approach.
more » ... Students were surveyed about their experience in taking the course and their own assessment of levels of success in ethics training. Students from multiple terms were surveyed, to assess the consistency of success in using this non-traditional, interdisciplinary approach. Pedagogical methods (used both within the classroom and without) are discussed in detail in the paper. Course content is also discussed, with emphasis on the multifaceted nature of the curriculum: classical and contemporary ethical theory, readings in the philosophy of technology, and readings in diverse canonical and non-canonical works of science fiction. This humanistic course concluded with a summative group project, which required students to draw upon all aspects of the diverse curriculum in order to fulfill assignment goals. The project, which was designed to activate both creative and critical thinking abilities, directed students to create utopian societies. In order to imagine visionary alternative societies, students employed ethical principles, invoked themes and ideas from literature, and utilized new and even speculative technologies. In designing planned "perfect" communities, the students examined our most pressing social, scientific, and cultural challenges, responding to these problems by envisioning new possibilities in all areas of human life. The utopias were a blue-sky project; students were constrained only by the limits of their imagination and their understanding of course concepts. The summative project is a key example of the alternative learning methodologies employed in this seminar, and the paper describes in depth how students fulfilled assignment goals, using examples from student projects. This paper illustrates the benefits of employing a humanities-based approach when teaching engineering ethics.
doi:10.18260/1-2--34235 fatcat:wuexswft6bg2bcght72bw24d2e