Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


A Model for Engineering Ethics Education Leveraging Workplace Experiences through a Co-op Program


School of Engineering


Padnos College of Engineering and Computing

Date Range





Educating engineering student about professional ethics involves multiple challenges. These challenges can be extrinsic such as finding a proper place, timing, and quantity for this topic in the curriculum to provide to engineering students. These challenges can also be intrinsic including finding the appropriate method of delivery of this topic as well as the proper hands-on experiences or context to support this knowledge, particularly in engineering where students are trained on combining theory with practice. Many models have been proposed in the literature to educate engineering students about professional ethics. This paper presents a model that infuses ethics education across three years of the engineering program by delivering a scaffolded curriculum, using both classroom and on-line distance education methodologies. The framework for the model is situated within the structure of the mandatory cooperative education program. Ethics instruction occurs during a required cooperative education preparatory course, as well as during each of three semesters when students are employed with industry partners to practice engineering in a cooperative education program. Introductory engineering ethics content is provided in the preparatory course, including review and assessment of case studies. During the co-op work semesters, online tools have been developed that allow for easy collection and summarization of input related to student outcomes. Students are required to complete online, distance-learning modules during each cooperative education semester which allow for additional direct measurement of student learning outcomes, including five engineering ethics-focused modules. The cooperative education program provides assessment of students learning outcomes on a continuous (every semester), annual basis. The framework for assessment and assessment plans will be detailed, and example outcomes will be shared to demonstrate how this information is evaluated and used for curricular improvement. In addition, employer evaluations during the co-op semesters provide input on student abilities related to ethical behavior in the workplace. Outcomes of the continuous assessment and improvement of this program over the pilot trial, as well as full implementation with modifications learned from the pilot trial over two following classes of engineering students, are reported and discussed. Results show that students­ perceptions, the timing of the content delivery, and context, play a significant role in the effectiveness of this delivery model. Initial results indicate that students are demonstrating mastery of applied ethics-based knowledge and abilities between beginner and intermediate levels by the end of the cooperative education program.

Conference Name

2014 Annual Conference

Conference Location

Indianapolis, IN

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