Engineers in today's global society are interacting with ever more of the world's peoples and cultures which is introducing more social and ethical complexity to the profession and raising the importance of practicing engineers becoming capable ethical-decision makers and contributors to ethical team climates. Engineering educators are responsible for helping students to develop these skills in order to facilitate their transfer into practice. The ultimate project goal is to develop students' ethical reasoning skills and equip them to guide themselves through the complexities of today's global, team-based engineering profession. A barrier is the difficulty of assessing skills development in this area. In particular there is a paucity of assessment measures for engineering students. Measures designed to assess general moral development are not intended to address the peculiarities of handling ethical situations in engineering. In addition, because most undergraduates learn to apply ethical reasoning to engineering through design courses that are taught in teams, knowledge of the interaction between individual ethical development and the team climate, as well as individual and team factors, is vital to design effective learning environments.

The goal of this project is to fill this gap through research by 1) developing instruments which reliably and validly measure individual ethical reasoning and team ethical climate, 2) tracking the growth of ethical reasoning in undergraduate student design teams, and 3) investigating the relationship between individual ethical reasoning and team ethical climate, including how individual and group factors or characteristics affect change in students' ethical reasoning and in team climate. The outcomes of the project will ultimately provide faculty with tools to assess individual ethical development and team climate as well as provide insights and lessons learned from design experiences at four diverse institutions that will provide broad applicability of the findings.

Intellectual Merit This project is filling a void in current assessment tools by providing valid and reliable measures applicable for engineering-centered and multidisciplinary design teams. The project is working to produce validated assessment tools as well as analyses of individual students and teams across four diverse programs. The intended outcomes of this project are validated measures that are applicable to a broad range of institutions.

Broader Impacts The findings of this research have potential impacts across engineering education and beyond. The results of this research will help identify the specific types of experiences that best support development of ethical reasoning and team ethical climate, allowing faculty and administrators to strategically scale and optimize curriculum and programs to provide more students with higher quality experiences.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Myles G. Boylan
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Michigan Technological University
United States
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