EESE: Graduate Virtue Ethics Education in Science and Engineering

  • Oppong, Joseph (PI)
  • Wilson, Angela A.K. (CoPI)
  • Holbrook, James (CoPI)
  • John, Kuruvilla K. (CoPI)
  • Briggle, Adam (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


There is widespread agreement that scientists and engineers should receive training in ethics. But there is no consensus on how best to incorporate ethics into science and engineering education. Little is known about how to achieve and how to assess the desired outcome of helping scientists and engineers to make good ethical decisions. This research and education project addresses a major gap in ethics education: connecting ethics education to ethical decision making. The PI will develop an alternative, gaming approach that seeks to recast the ethics education of scientists and engineers as less a matter of memorizing rules through content delivery systems and more a matter of practicing virtuous behavior in life-like gaming environments. The PI's approach builds on the growing literature on pedagogical uses of games, as well as his own prototype research ethics games developed with prior NSF support. Rather than instructing students in 'the right thing to do' then testing whether they know 'the right thing to do', games immerse students in situations in which they must decide what to do. The gaming environment serves as a training ground for developing practical ethical skills and forming habits of character. Games are more true to the ambiguous, dynamic, and complex situations faced by scientists and engineers than any pre-packaged, static, and unidirectional content. In this project, the PI will test the hypothesis that an ethics game can improve ethical decision making. This will entail finalizing three prototype research ethics games, facilitating game play with diverse graduate student populations from multiple institutions, improving the games through an iterative process, assessing game playability and impacts on ethical decision making using a well-validated evaluation tool, and disseminating the games and final research results.

Broader Impacts: This project advances knowledge of the least understood area of ethics education: how to assess the connection between ethics education and ethical decision making. By using virtue ethics theory and taking an interactive gaming approach, this project has the potential to transform ethics education for a new generation of scientists and engineers. Assessments will address not only user participation in and satisfaction with the games developed, but also their improvement in developing the skills needed for ethical decision making in real-world contexts. Project results will be disseminated broadly; the games will be made available to the partner institutions and adapted for inclusion in UNT's RCR training program for graduate students.

Effective start/end date9/15/138/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $299,558.00


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