Leonhard Center, Rock Ethics Institute lauded for efforts in ethics education

February 18, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced today (Feb. 18) that its Center for Engineering Ethics and Society has selected the pioneering efforts to create a community of ethics educators in Penn State’s College of Engineering as an Exemplar in Engineering Ethics Education.

Penn State’s program was one of only 25 recognized across the country.

“Ethical standards in engineering, from practice to solutions, are critical to trust in the profession,” said NAE President C. D. Mote Jr. in today’s press release.

Programs considered for the honor were those that aim to prepare students for ethical practice, research or leadership in engineering, and that have at least one clearly articulated attribute that makes them exemplary.

Since 2002, the Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education and the Rock Ethics Institute have collaborated to create a series of pedagogical activities and tools that engage and support engineering faculty members as they integrate ethics into their teaching.

“These activities, designed by an interdisciplinary team of philosophers and engineers, serve the specific needs of teaching and learning in engineering and successfully promote faculty and students’ awareness of ethics in the engineering profession,” said Tom Litzinger, assistant dean for educational innovation and accreditation in the College of Engineering and director of the Leonhard Center.

Litzinger outlined three key initiatives that have made the partnership between the Leonhard Center and the Rock Ethics Institute a success.

The first is a series of summer workshops, titled “Learning and Teaching Ethics in Engineering,” that were offered from 2002 to 2010. The workshops were designed to prepare engineering faculty members to teach ethics in engineering; help engineering faculty design ethics-related course activities specifically tied to the content in major courses with instructional design methods; and promote ethics education throughout the College of Engineering.

Since 2013, the Leonhard Center has collaborated with Tricia Bertram Gallant, an internationally known expert on academic integrity, on a series of faculty workshops titled “Creating the Ethical Classroom.” These workshops were created to enhance faculty members’ self-efficacy in teaching academic integrity and professional ethics; help faculty develop instructional strategies to integrate academic integrity and ethics into their courses; and support faculty as they implement the ethics related teaching plans in their classes.

The third and most recent initiative focuses on graduate education. In spring 2015 the College of Engineering and the Rock Ethics Institute assessed the challenges and needs of ethics education at the graduate level.

“The results of the assessment have been used to develop plans for a new faculty workshop aimed at helping engineering faculty members implement ethics education for graduate students,” said Litzinger.

Nancy Tuana, director of the Rock Ethics Institute, said the institute’s commitment to infusing ethical literacy into the Penn State curriculum is exemplified by the ongoing partnership with the Leonhard Center.

“Thanks to the vision and support of Penn State engineering alumnus Charles “Chick” Rolling and his wife, Joan, who have championed ethics education at the University through the Rolling Program Fund in Engineering and Ethics, hundreds of engineering majors are developing the skills they need to be able to identify and clarify the often hidden ethical dimensions of engineering practice and the ability to evaluate the often difficult ethical choices they will make as engineers. We are honored to have this work recognized by the National Academy of Engineering,” she said.

“The recognition by the NAE is a tribute to all of the faculty members who have dedicated their time to the critical task of educating their students about engineering ethics,” added Litzinger.

Programs that were selected as NAE Exemplars in Engineering Ethics Education are included in the academy’s "Infusing Ethics into the Development of Engineers" report, which was presented at the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics’ annual meeting on Feb. 18. The report will also be shared at the American Society for Engineering Education’s annual meeting in June.

The programs will also be highlighted on the NAE’s Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science to serve as a resource for those who want to improve ethics education at their institutions.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 19, 2016