An Ethical Framework for Engineering Faculty: Motivation, Examples & Discussion

  • Rebecca A. Bates (Minnesota State University - Mankato)


Engineering faculty address ethics from two perspectives. The first is as required content related to the ABET outcome that engineering graduates will have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. The second is as practitioners who face a range of ethical dilemmas and challenges, from plagiarism to “passenger” team members to professional relationships with colleagues to responsible conduct of their own research. As faculty members and professionals, we have multiple guides, including the recently adopted ASEE Code of Ethics (, however, there is still a need to examine frameworks and develop skills in both practicing and teaching professional and ethical responsibility.

This presentation and paper will present a framework used at multiple institutions and previously presented at the national conference by Bates & Loui (2013). The approach starts with identifying stakeholders, gathering information and considering alternative actions and consequences. These actions are then evaluated with a series of tests related to basic ethical values:

Harm test: Do the benefits outweigh the harms, short term and long term?

Reversibility test: Would this choice still look good if I traded places?

Common practice test: What if everyone behaved in this way?

Legality test: Would this choice violate a law or a policy of my employer?

Colleague test: What would professional colleagues say?

Wise relative test: What would my wise old aunt or uncle do?

Mirror test: Would I feel proud of myself when I look into the mirror?

Publicity test: How would this choice look on the front page of a newspaper?

Interactive discussion will include ways this approach has been used in multidisciplinary STEM classes and ways it can be used by faculty to support reflection on their own practice. The paper and presentation will also include links to supporting resources such as NAE’s growing Online Ethics Center and the Ethics CORE (Collaborative Online Resource Environment) portal.

How to Cite:

Bates, R. A., (2014) “An Ethical Framework for Engineering Faculty: Motivation, Examples & Discussion”, 2014 ASEE North Midwest Section Conference 2014(1), 1-7. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2014, Rebecca A. Bates

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Published on
17 Oct 2014
Peer Reviewed