IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2015 - 59

Porra [28] introduced phenomenological methods to
help students understand the values, forces, interests,
and mechanisms in society that pose ethical questions
for design engineers. Broome described an activity
he tried in an ethics workshop to prepare students for
the FEE licensing exam. He asked students to take the
exam before he delivered his lecture. Then, also before
the students received any instruction, Broome asked
them to take the exam again but, this time, to imagine
themselves as an "aged, highly mature person: a family member or some legendary character; someone
who exhibited great wisdom and caring for others."
The results were stunning: students generally failed or
performed marginally on the first exam but "maximized
the examination" when they imagined themselves to be
wise and caring [29].
Wike, who adopts a values-based approach to teaching
engineering ethics, describes values in phenomenological terms: "If, as I am claiming, the best way to talk about
ethics is in terms of values, then ethics is everywhere.
Ethics isn't 'outside' a technical practice; it is already
there. We just have to make it explicit" [30]. Lynch and
Kline closely describe a phenomenological approach to
engineering ethics when they suggest that students focus
on the everyday mundane ordinariness - the essence - of
engineering ethical decision-making [22]. These approaches share a common aim to help students understand - to
experience, describe, and empathize with - the real world
experience of being an ethical engineer.
I propose a phenomenology-informed curriculum
that can be used by engineering and non-engineering
faculty to help students study ethical experience. Sadala
and Adorno used phenomenology methods to help student nurses understand the world of nursing on an isolation ward. They prescribe phenomenology as the most
appropriate way to investigate professional experience
because students will acquire "experience in a situation
where they relate to an already given world, which is
out there, into which they are launched and which they
will have necessarily to face" [23]. I propose placing my
students in the shoes of the researcher and having them
ask the phenomenological question: "What is it to be an
ethical engineer?"
Phenomenological research is a rigorous methodology
[31]-[33]. My intent is not to train my students in phenomenological research but to apply some of the concepts to
an engineering ethics pedagogy. Phenomenology employs
the concept of "bracketing" [24] or the putting aside of
biases or assumptions associated with the phenomenon in
order to understand the essences of an experience. Several
principles from phenomenology research guide the design
of assignments. [32]. First, the question: "what is it to be an
ethical engineer?" does not have a pre-known answer and
no theory is put forth for students to test. Instead, inquiry
june 2015

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is a subjective experience in which each student explores
the phenomenon and discovers his or her own answer
to the question. Second, the focus is on real engineers,
real-world engineering practice, and the "everydayness" of
engineering work and ethical practice. Third, because there
are no fixed answers, ambiguity is expected and necessary.
Becoming comfortable with ambiguity in a profession that
rejects that notion is part of the inquiry process. Finally, this
is an inductive rather than deductive process; questioning,
reflection, and interpretation are the tools of discovery.
Assignments are not prescriptive or rigid. The phenomenological inquiry approach allows an instructor
to try a variety of assignments and to use student
performance and feedback to gauge outcomes and
make revisions. I begin the course by introducing the
three course objectives: 1) to develop a working knowledge of the principles of ethical theory and how these
theories connect to personal and professional decision
making, 2) to explore and articulate their understanding of what it is to be an ethical engineer, and 3) to
demonstrate proficient communication skills.

Course Introduction
Reading
Excerpts from Bunge, Philosophical Inputs and Outputs
of Technology [4]. Bunge explains that technology is not
ethically neutral and that engineers are not morally irresponsible professionals who operate in isolation, merely
solving design problems. Rather, engineers always have
choices about the good or evil of the technology on
which they work, and society benefits when engineers
use their expertise to help make these decisions. To be
an engineer is necessarily to be concerned with ethics.

Writing
Writing enables phenomenological reflection and understanding of lived experience [27]. My students write
a brief introductory autobiography that asks them to
reflect on their life (including internship or co-op) experiences, examine their values, and explain how they see
themselves as emerging engineers.

Ethics and Values
Reading
Wike, Professional Engineering Ethical Behavior: A
Values-Based Approach [30]. Wike reinforces the point
raised by Bunge that engineers have ethical responsibilities that cannot be passed off to management. And she
rejects the idea that engineers can rely on laws and codes
of ethics for the answers to ethical problems in engineering practice. She offers instead a values-based approach
to moral decision-making for engineering design.

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

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