Understanding and Evaluating Ethical Engineering Practice

Description

This project qualitatively investigates how practicing engineers experience ethical issues in their workplace. This understanding of practicing engineers’ experiences will support a better alignment of engineering ethics instruction with what students might experience in professional practice.

Abstract
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Description

Engineering degree programs recognize that ethics is essential in preparing students for professional practice. However, current efforts in ethics education may not adequately reflect practicing engineers’ experiences with ethical issues.

We are applying phenomenography, a qualitative, empirical research methodology for investigating qualitatively different ways people experience a phenomenon, to comprehensively understand how practicing engineers experience ethical issues in their workplaces. We will categorize and explore variations in the ways engineers experience ethics in professional practice based on 45 phenomenographic interviews. While we do not presuppose core features of such variation, such features may include ethical decision-making processes, relationships between stakeholders, and organizational culture. Whereas others have interviewed practicing engineers to gather cases for ethics education, we aim for fundamental understanding. Our approach is descriptive, not normative. We are not aware of previous phenomenographic research studies in engineering ethics education.

We are conducting semi-structured interviews with engineers from three areas of the health products industry: orthopedic, pharmaceutical, and other medical devices. Participants were selected to ensure variation on several criteria, including years of experience, workplace roles, gender, and academic degrees. Phenomenographic analysis will enable us to generate a comprehensive framework to understand engineering ethics, grounded in the experiences of engineers. This understanding of practicing engineers’ experiences will support a better alignment of engineering ethics instruction with what students might experience in professional practice.

Leadership

Dayoung Kim
School of Engineering Education
Purdue University

Carla B. Zoltowski
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
School of Engineering Education

Michael Loui
School of Engineering Education
Purdue University

Alison J. Kerr
University of Tulsa

Justin L. Hess
STEM Education Innovation & Research Institute
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Nicholas D. Fila
Department of Industrial Design
Iowa State University


Funding

Engineering of 2020 Seed Grant, College of Engineering, Purdue University; National Science Foundation Awards: 1737303 and 1623125

Recipient Organization

Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Start and End Date

September 2017-August 2020

Contact Information

Andrew O. Brightman (aob@purdue.edu)

Attached Resources

Applying Phenomonegraphy to Understand Practicing Engineers' Lived Experiences About Ethics in Engineering and its Implications for Ethics Education