Research Projects

Daniels Fund Principle-based Ethics Education Grant

The Daniels Fund Principle-based Ethics Education Grant (Daniels Fund Faculty Fellows Program) is dedicated to providing support for Mines faculty to integrate principle-based ethics into their curricula. Mines is the first STEM-focused university to receive Daniels Fund grants for ethics. On August 5, 2016, seven Mines faculty were awarded the inaugural Daniels Fund Faculty Fellows award for their proposals on how to incorporate ethics into their courses. The Faculty Fellows are expected to develop lessons, modules or projects that incorporate ethical considerations as a central focus. Upon completing their courses, the Faculty Fellows will assess the activity and develop strategies for adaptation, the goal being to create strategies that can be applied to a variety of courses.  The faculty will then share their results with the campus community.

More information can be found on the website of the Daniels Fund Faculty Fellows Program:

Ethics Autobiography as a Tool for Moral Pedagogy

Most engineering educators recognize the necessity–and challenges–of teaching students moral sensitivity. As recently pointed out by some scholars, along with moral sensitivity, promoting “self-knowledge” is significantly lacking in engineering curricula. We suggest that a version of the “Ethics Autobiography” employed in some health and psychological science programs can serve as a useful tool for teaching engineering students moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies.

This project first sets up a historical and cultural context within which moral sensitivity and self-reflection are needed in engineering education. It then reports our experience using the Ethics Autobiography in an introductory ethics course at an engineering college: We asked students to write two ethics autobiographies, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the semester. In the first ethics autobiography, we asked students to write a diary of day, evaluate each entry for ethical implications and discuss their most fundamental ethical principles, ranking of those principles, and the source(s) of those principles. In the second ethics autobiography, we asked students to revisit the first autobiography and reevaluate the ethics entailed in the entries. Students were asked to reevaluate their own ethical principles included in the first autobiographies and connect their ethical principles to the classical ethical theories studied in the course.

We compared students’ early and later autobiographies and assessed to what extent and in what sense their moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies were cultivated. Compared to ethics autobiographical pedagogical activities in other professional education fields, our approach has some distinct objectives such as:

  1. gaining insights into students’ difficulties contextualizing ethics theories in their everyday moral decision-making,
  2. identifying the most prevalent moral judgment schemas among students
  3. discovering the social factors that shaped the formation of students’ moral judgment schemas and moral habits.

This project also explores the implications of our research findings for engineering ethics education reform and reflections on the limitations and ethical considerations of using autobiography in moral pedagogy.

We have presented preliminary results at the following conferences: 18th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum (2016), Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) 26th Annual International Conference (2017). Currently, we are working on a manuscript that will be later submitted to an ethics education journal.

Ethical Climate, Institutional Transformation and STEM Education

A Recent Project: “The Ethics Across Campus Program at Colorado School of Mines: Ethics Education in Institutional, Societal, and Policy Contexts

Note: This is a recently invited chapter in a book volume comparing the ethics across the curriculum practices at different institutions.

Since the late 1980s and the early 1990s, numerous ethics centers and programs have been established at higher education institutions to help faculty members integrate ethics into the curriculum and improve students’ experience of ethics education. These centers and programs often serve as important venues that situate ethics education in broader institutional, social, and policy contexts, but these programs can also struggle to carve out a niche in an atmosphere of shifting administrators and institutional goals. By taking the Ethics Across Campus Program (EAC) at Colorado School of Mines (CSM) as an example, this paper discusses how institutional, social, and policy contexts provide opportunities—and challenges—for ethics centers and programs to create diverse moral learning experience for students.

This paper begins by depicting the historical background against which the EAC program was founded. It was launched to meet the policy requirements stipulated by university administration, accreditation bodies (e.g., ABET), and governmental agencies (e.g., NSF). Historically the governance structure of this program has been cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental, which demonstrates a holistic approach to understanding ethics education.

This paper also discusses the pedagogical approaches and tools (e.g., ethics autobiography, personal code of ethics, business ethics award judges) that EAC has developed for students to critically engage ethical reflections in their campus life, everyday decision-making, community engagement, and professional formation. In a broader sense, the EAC program has been working to invite business and engineering practitioners to contribute to ethics education on campus in several ways: through providing funding, by serving as judges for team competitions, and lecturing on ethics practical experiences at the workplace. Finally, this paper concludes with reflections on some major challenges faced by the program, including the different views of ethics held by ethics instructors and industry practitioners.