It's All Relative: Examining Student Ethical Decision Making in a Narrative Game-Based Ethical Intervention

Daniel D. Burkey, Richard T. Cimino, Michael F. Young, Kevin D. Dahm, Scott C. Streiner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This Innovative Practice Full Paper presents a novel, narrative, game-based approach to introducing first-year engineering students to concepts in ethical decision making. Approximately 250 first-year engineering students at the University of Connecticut played through our adventure, titled Mars: An Ethical Expedition, by voting weekly as a class on a presented dilemma. Literature shows that case studies still dominate learning sciences research on engineering ethical education, and that novel, active learning-based techniques, such as games, are infrequently used but can have a positive impact on both student engagement and learning. In this work, we suggest that games are a form of situated (context-based) learning, where the game setting provides learners with an authentic but safe space in which to explore engineering ethical choices and their consequences. As games normalize learning through failure, they present a unique opportunity for students to explore ethical decision making in a non-judgmental, playful, and safe way.We explored the situated nature of ethical decision making through a qualitative deconstruction of the weekly scenarios that students engaged with over the course of the twelve-week narrative. To assess their ethical reasoning, students took the Engineering Ethics Reasoning Instrument (EERI), a quantitative engineering ethics reasoning survey, at the beginning and end of the semester. The EERI scenarios were deconstructed to reveal their core ethical dilemmas, and then common elements between the EERI and our Mars adventure were compared to determine how students responded to similar ethical dilemmas presented in each context.We noted that students' responses to the ethical decisions in the Mars adventure scenarios were sometimes substantially different both from their response to the EERI scenario as well as from other decisions they made within the context of the game, despite the core ethical dilemma being the same. This suggests that they make ethical decisions in some situations that differ from a presumed abstract understanding of post-conventional moral reasoning. This has implications for how ethical reasoning can be taught and scaffolded in educational settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2022
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781665462440
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2022 - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: Oct 8 2022Oct 11 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
Volume2022-October
ISSN (Print)1539-4565

Conference

Conference2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2022
Country/TerritorySweden
CityUppsala
Period10/8/2210/11/22

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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