Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



This paper will describe the method of ethics instruction in a specific project-based learning program with the aim to improve the current level of moral reasoning skills in the engineering students enrolled in the program. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) have endorsed efforts to improve the teaching of ethics in the engineering curriculum. Criterion 3-f of the ABET outcomes,specifically calls for student attainment of an understanding of ethical and professional responsibility. In response, engineering educators seek to develop curriculum to improve moral reasoning skills, which should lead to increased understanding of processes used to solve ethical dilemmas. This paper describes one method of developing ethical understanding and decision-making processes in the context of project-based learning, specifically students enrolled in Iron Range Engineering or Twin Cities Engineering, sister programs jointly directed by Minnesota State University, Mankato, Itasca Community College and Normandale Community College. Students in the program completed an online survey, the Defining Issues Test version 2, to measure their current moral reasoning skills. Comparative descriptive statistics are presented to compare measured moral reasoning levels of this group with engineering students at other universities and with other college majors.The paper also documents the ethical development activities and discussions that the students complete as part of the ethics curriculum during the year. The results inform engineering educators of the experience of using a particular ethical development curriculum model,specifically, small group discussions of ethical dilemmas moderated by team mentors and faculty members, followed by written student reflection.The next step is to measure any change in moral development levels during the academic year through a pre- and post-test administration of the DIT-2 survey. The results will inform the research team of the growth in moral development in our student group, assessing the effectiveness of the method of ethics instruction used. Additionally, a longitudinal study to measure growth in moral decision-making skills during a four-year undergraduate engineering program is planned.


Integrated Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Technology