Publication Details

Stappenbelt, B. (2011). Professional ethics education in engineering. AAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education (pp. 1-6).


There is much debate surrounding professional ethics education, in particular surrounding the question of whether professional ethics can be taught at all (Steneck, 1999; Bauer and Adams, 2005). Professional ethics instruction in engineering is commonly conducted by examining case studies in light of the code of conduct of a suitable professional body. Although graphical presentations of spectacular failures, sobering stories of the repercussions and the solid framework provided by the tenets of a code of ethics may leave a lasting impression, students generally gain their professional identity from relatives and colleagues (Loui, 2005). Their professional ethics tend to be mostly an extension of their personal ethics. Instruction on ethics generally serves only to reinforce students¿ inclination to act ethically and provides encouragement to act on these beliefs. In this study a survey was conducted (n=576), based on the work by O¿Clock and Okleshen (1993), examining the personal ethical perceptions of engineering students. The survey measured how engineering students perceive their own ethical beliefs and how they perceive the ethical beliefs and actions of their peers. As a learning exercise, students were then challenged by examining their personal ethical beliefs in light of the professional ethics requirements of the IEAust code of conduct. After familiarisation with the Engineers Australia code of ethics, students were also invited to comment regarding their beliefs regarding adherence to this code.

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