The design and implementation of an ethics module within an undergraduate Engineering Studies curriculum

Reid, Maxwell Stuart
Begg, AJ
Nates, R
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis documents the development of an ethics curriculum which is incorporated as a module within the Engineering Studies paper at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in New Zealand. The module is a compulsory component in the final year of the Bachelor of Engineering (BE) and Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) degrees in the School of Engineering and was designed to meet the ethical and societal requirements of the Washington and Sydney Accords. The thesis reviews the shift in global attitudes, ideology and world opinion towards engineering practice with respect to engineering ethics. It follows the changes in attitudes towards ethics and values within education that led to the requirement to include ethics in university undergraduate engineering programmes. The literature review was an interpretive enquiry into: 1. Professional ethics in engineering. 2. Philosophy of ethics education. 3. Pedagogy of ethics education. 4. Assessment of ethics education. The research method used to review, design and evaluate this curriculum was a combination of interpretive, autobiographical and action research. The overall goal was to develop an appropriate and effective curriculum relevant to engineering to meet the programme objectives related to expected student outcomes. These outcomes were a requirement of the engineering degree programme and highlight the importance of critical thinking in situations where students cannot always rely on routine or tradition when making decisions. The concern here was that the curriculum design should contribute to an overall programme where students graduate with the capability of intelligent, independent, and ethical thought. This thesis not only describes the design and development process, but also the means by which the module was implemented. In the process a number of research foci arose concerning the requirements for an effective ethics teacher and the curriculum development process within the following framework: 1. Diagnosis of the learner's needs and the expectations of larger society. 2. Formulation of learning objectives. 3. Selection of learning content. 4. Organisation of learning content. 5. Selection of learning/teaching experiences. 6. Organisation of learning/teaching experiences. 7. Determinations of what to evaluate and the means to do it. This thesis is a reflective documentation of literature reviews, curriculum development options, and the rationale for the options chosen. What has evolved at AUT is a stand-alone ethics module which is part of the Engineering Studies paper for students in their final undergraduate year. This research is intended to make a contribution to engineering education by providing information and guidance for any university engineering staff member who may wish to, or may be required to, introduce ethics into an undergraduate engineering programme. For those academics already offering ethics papers, this work may provide a stimulus for further thought. Hopefully this work may become a useful resource to others.

Ethics , Engineering education
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