Equity as rebar: Bridging the micro/macro divide in engineering ethics education

For many years, ILead’s research team has incorporated a strong focus on equity, diversity and inclusion into their research. For March, we highlight ‘Equity as rebar: Bridging the micro/macro divide in engineering ethics education’

Personal and professional ethics are irrevocably tied to social impact, leaving engineering ethics  incomplete when decoupled from equity. In this paper, researchers sought to understand how engineering educators can prepare students to practice ethical and equitable decision-making in the context of their professional lives.

The researchers identified concrete actions that engineering educators, senior administrators and accreditation bodies can take to incorporate ethics and equity into the curriculum. For educators, this includes using a wide range of teaching methods, supporting students to identify the macro, equity-based consequences of what may appear to be small actions, and using mindful listening and emotional engagement to create learning environments that accommodate difficult conversations.

Responding to ethical and equitable dilemmas can be extremely challenging, especially at the early career stage when engineering graduates may lack the institutional authority and job security to challenge organizational norms. Consider practicing the following strategies in your design teams and clubs, with your own professional development in mind:

  • Listen to the perspectives of people whose world-views you consider different from your own
  • Be willing to change your mind in response to the contributions of others
  • Work to identify where your personal perspective is rooted. Why do you believe what you believe?

Creating learning environments that effectively teach equity in engineering requires the cooperation and action of decision-makers at a number of institutional levels. If you’re passionate about ensuring that a robust equity curriculum is offered to future generations read the full paper to learn where you might focus your advocacy efforts, and join the Engineering EDI action group.

Citation: Rottmann, C., Reeve, D. Equity as Rebar: Bridging the Micro/Macro Divide in Engineering Ethics Education. Can. J. Sci. Math. Techn. Educ. 20, 146–165 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42330-019-00073-7