Teaching engineering ethics with sustainability as context

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Byrne, Edmond P.
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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to ascertain the engagement and response of students to the teaching of engineering ethics incorporating a macro ethical framework whereby sustainability is viewed as context to professional practice. This involves incorporating a broader conception of engineering than is typically applied in conventional teaching of engineering ethics.Design/methodology/approach – A real life wicked problem case study assignment was developed. Students' understanding and practical application of the concepts were considered. A survey was conducted to gauge students' appreciation of the professional importance and their enjoyment of the subject matter. Findings – It was found that students appreciate and enjoy a macro ethical sustainability informed approach, but find it more challenging to apply in practice. Practical implications – The paper demonstrates an approach to the teaching of engineering ethics using a practical example, which can help broaden engineers' self-perceived role towards one where sustainability is context. It also shows how students can find such an approach to teaching ethics to be both enjoyable and relevant.Social implications – Engineers educated to perceive the importance of engaging with macro ethical issues as part of professional practice will be significantly better placed to inform public and industry policy towards greater good and engage with other professional and expert groups. Originality/value – In this paper, an approach to engineering ethics which diverges from the traditional is proposed. This can be of value to those involved in the teaching of engineering ethics, particularly those seeking to incorporate sustainability and other macro ethical issues.
Sustainability , Engineering education , Complexity , Curricula , Macro ethical , Engineering education , Water supply engineering , Ireland , Universities
Edmond P. Byrne, (2012) "Teaching engineering ethics with sustainability as context", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 13 Iss: 3, pp.232 - 248. doi: 10.1108/14676371211242553
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