The Two Cultures of Engineering Education: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Diana Adela Martin, Madeline Polmear

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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The prevalent historical model of engineering education is centered on a conception of engineering as a technical discipline. However, engineering students are increasingly expected to develop nontechnical competencies for their workforce preparation and professional responsibility. In particular, ethics are an important outcome of engineering education. Ethics have roots in the humanities and social science (HSS), creating a tension between the normative culture of engineering and its engagement with these disciplines. There is a persistent disconnection between the engineering and HSS cultures in ethics education, which impacts how the subject is integrated and treated in curricula. This chapter explores the dichotomy between how technical and nontechnical learning outcomes are addressed in engineering education and its implications for ethics. Drawing on two studies that were independently designed and con-ducted in the US and Ireland, this chapter synthesizes the perspectives of educators across the two national contexts. Educators in both countries completed semi-structured interviews to understand their practices and perceptions related to engineering ethics. The interviews uncovered four themes related to the deprioritization of ethics in engineering education: the weight assigned to ethics in accreditation, the piecemeal integration of ethics in the engineering curriculum, the perceived status of ethics as soft and ancillary, and the lack of faculty training. Based on these findings, the chapter concludes with recommendations to bridge the divide between technical and nontechnical learning outcomes and support the more cohesive and interdisciplinary integration of ethics in engineering education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngineering, Social Science, and the Humanities
Subtitle of host publicationHas their Conversation Come of Age?
EditorsSteen Hyldgaard Christensen, Anders Buch, Eddie Conlon, Christelle Didier, Carl Mitcham, Mike Murphy
PublisherSpringer Nature
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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