Towards a Sociotechnical Reconfiguration of Engineering and an Education for Ethics: A Critical Realist Investigation into the Patterns of Education and Accreditation of Ethics in Engineering Programmes in Ireland

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 4 Research NOT TU/e / Graduation NOT TU/e)

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Abstract

The focus of this thesis is on the education and accreditation of ethics in engineering programmes in Ireland. This examination is placed in the wider cultural context of engineering education. The study benefitted from the support of the national accrediting body Engineers Ireland, and included 23 engineering programmes from 2 institutes of technology and 4 universities in Ireland which underwent accreditation between 2017-2019.

By using a Critical Realist frame, the study undertakes a multi-level investigation of the engineering education system that takes into consideration the individual level of single agents such as instructors and evaluators, the institutional level comprised of engineering programmes, as well as the policy level represented by the national accrediting body. Furthermore, through retroduction, the generative mechanism affecting the activity at these levels is explained to be the culture of engineering education and its valorisation of the technical over the social dimension of engineering, at societal level.

The analysis suggests that the lower weight of ethics and its unsystematic implementation in the engineering curriculum, as well as the challenges encountered in the teaching, implementation and evaluation of ethics for accreditation are rooted in a cultural perception of engineering as a “nuts and bolts” discipline. To dismantle the technical social dualism existing in engineering education, the study proposes moving from a treatment of ethics as a curriculum add-on towards a reorientation and development of engineering curriculum “for” ethics. Engineering education “for” ethics is a transformative process, which aims to challenge existing core assumptions and values promoted in engineering education. The study argues that measures targeting each of the aforementioned ontological levels need to be considered in the process of reforming engineering education towards its identification as a socio-technical discipline.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Dublin Institute of Technology
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Bowe, Brian, Supervisor, External person
  • Conlon, Eddie, Supervisor, External person
  • Mitcham, Carl, Committee member, External person
  • O'Rourke, Kevin, Committee member, External person
Award date19 Jul 2020
Place of PublicationDublin
Publisher
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • engineering ethics
  • engineering education
  • engineering education reform
  • engineering culture
  • techno-social dualism
  • vision

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