Dr. Sarah Jayne Hitt (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University, Engineering Professors)
In March 2022, the UK’s Engineering Professors Council (EPC) launched the Engineering Ethics Toolkit to provide engineering educators with ready-to-use classroom resources and support in integrating ethics into their teaching. In March 2023, many additional Toolkit materials were launched to help educators understand, plan for, and implement ethics learning across engineering curricula. These are all found at https://epc.ac.uk/resources/toolkit/ethics-toolkit/
The Toolkit is a project supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and complements its efforts to ensure that ethics is fully embedded in UK engineering education, training, and professional development. Guided by an advisory group of passionate engineering academics and leaders, the Toolkit resources have been created to highlight current and emerging real-world issues that learners can engage with from multiple disciplinary and ethical perspectives. For instance, one case considers the ethical and technical issues surrounding a chatbot developed by a small company to provide support services in a high school, and encourages students to consider how they might balance concerns about privacy and quality of data, as well as to weigh business imperatives alongside child wellbeing. A supplementary case enhancement provides an outline of a mapping activity that educators can use in the classroom to guide students in eliciting the value assumptions and motivations of different stakeholders in the dilemma as a method of making an ethical decision. Guidance articles are also available to help educators understand the context of ethics in engineering, and to provide suggestions for things like managing tough topics in discussion or applying an activity in a large section.
These resources were developed by academic and industry professionals working in a variety of fields across three continents and representing career stages from Master’s student through company founder. Through a process of collaboration and review, the advisory group ensured that they adhered to current scholarship and established good practice in engineering ethics education.
Another innovative recent addition to the Toolkit is the Ethics Explorer, an interactive tool that helps educators understand, plan for, and implement ethics learning across engineering curricula and showcases its alignment with accreditation criteria and graduate attributes. Further interactivity is promoted through the establishment of a community of practice called the Ethics Ambassadors.
Getting involved or simply using the Toolkit materials supports educators in their own professional development towards research-based teaching, active learning, and values-centered practice. After all, embedding ethics in engineering teaching complements institutional efforts towards interdisciplinarity, sustainability, EDI, and community engagement. And ethics education also links to national and international initiatives towards social and environmental responsibility.
The Engineering Ethics Toolkit has already received a lot of international traffic and is one of the most visited portions of the EPC website. We hope that even more people will engage with its resources and get involved: join the Ethics Ambassadors community to hear about forthcoming Engineering Ethics Toolkit features and events, including workshops, trainings, awards, and a dedicated search function. You can even tell us how you’ve used the toolkit in your teaching, contribute or review resources, or write a blog. Visit https://epc.ac.uk/resources/toolkit/ethics-toolkit/engineering-ethics-toolkit-get-involved/ for more information.