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Care ethics in engineering education: Undergraduate student perceptions of responsibility

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3 Author(s)
Campbell, R.C. ; Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA ; Yasuhara, K. ; Wilson, D.

Engineering is not known to be a particularly caring profession, scoring significantly lower than science in this regard according to a poll of the American public. However, engineers have many opportunities through their work to show care and concern for both people and the ecosystem, such as by choosing to work on humanitarian or environmental issues and taking responsibility to ensure these issues are meaningfully addressed. When engineers do their jobs uncaringly, people and the environment often suffer. In this paper we argue that care ethics should be a part of engineering education and explore how care is reflected in student work. Specifically, we examine empirically how undergraduate engineering students care for others, as expressed through their writing about engineers taking responsibility for the adverse impacts on the environment and public health created by e-waste recycling in the developing world. We find that in our sample, most engineering students associated engineers with responsibility for this problem, but that many appeared to lack an appreciation of both the complexities that must be addressed, and the broadly interdisciplinary and collaborative approach necessary to meaningfully address them.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2012

Date of Conference:

3-6 Oct. 2012