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Designing Lessons In Professional and Ethical Responsibility To Increase Student Engagement In A First-Year Course
In line with this year’s conference theme of “educating principled engineering leaders of tomorrow,” this paper details efforts to develop skills related to professional and ethical responsibilities with first-year engineering students in an introductory course. Many introductory textbooks and courses approach the topic of ethics and professional responsibility from the perspective of studying lists of rules and reading professional codes of conduct from the various engineering professional organizations. Some courses and texts go further and have students analyze case studies of engineering failures or disasters, identifying actions where rules or codes of conduct were violated. The lack of knowledge most first-year engineering students have with respect to the engineering profession combined with a lack of shared contexts among the cohort makes it challenging for first-year instructors to cover this topic in a meaningful and engaging way. The author has employed multiple lessons related to professional and ethical responsibility for students in first-year courses. All of the lessons were designed to approach the topic in an active way that would feel similar to the students’ experience with other engineering course content and that would draw the students into the exercises by building off experiences shared by the cohort. The exercises developed have drawn on stories from texts in the first-year English composition courses, students’ experiences going to a medical doctor, online “morality” simulators, and a case study based on the work-life of an alum from the engineering program. The paper will extract from the lessons the common components of the exercises that were effective at promoting active student engagement. Additionally, the paper will use examples from the students’ reflective writing to demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach with respect to helping first-year students and prospective future engineering leaders consider the impact of engineering solutions in a variety of meaningful contexts.