Educational goals

Main educational goals

The major goals we aim for are several moral competencies, fostering moral reflection and insight, transferring of ethical skills and knowledge to students and making students aware of the systemic challenges they will face as engineers.

Learning objectives

The learning goals will differ according to the level of the programme, details varying between BSc/ Msc levels. Check out the tabs below for more details about these goals.

What are the key ethical competences necessary for an engineer?

  • "The  first  competence  is  what  you might call sensitivity, which is the ability to see ethical issues. If you don’t see the issues, you will never deal with them. So, the first skill students have to learn is to be able to see the issues.
  • The second skill is to be able to analyze them and talk about values that are at stake, about norms, stakeholders and conflicts of interests, which is a more analytical skill.
  • Another skill is the ability to form judgments, to judge what is the  best  thing  to  do,  and  the  ability  to  justify,  to  give  reasons  why  you  do  things.
  • There are also skills like being able to discuss and communicate things, so you should be able to form your own opinion and discuss the opinion with others.
  • You should be able to  listen  to  arguments  of  others,  to  accept  these  arguments  or  reject  them,  but also to communicate, for example to the public or a client why you have made certain decisions."-  Prof.dr.ir. Ibo van de Poel

Source: Van De Poel, Ibo, and Eulalia Smuga-Fries. "Teaching Ethics to Engineering Students." Roczniki Filozoficzne / Annales De Philosophie / Annals of Philosophy 63, no. 1 (2015): 213-16. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43410429.

The ethics courses designed for future engineers in our Section strive towards fostering the following skills:

  • "Moral sensibility: the ability to recognize social and ethical issues in engineering;
  • Moral analysis skills: the ability to analyze moral problems in terms of facts, values,stakeholders and their interests;
  • Moral creativity: the ability to think out different options for action in the light of (conflicting) moral values and the relevant facts;
  • Moral judgment skills: the ability to give a moral judgment on the basis of different ethical theories or frameworks including professional ethics and common sense morality;
  • Moral decision-making skills: the ability to reflect on different ethical theories and frameworks and to make a decision based on that reflection;
    and
  • Moral argumentation skills: the ability to morally justify one’s actions and to discuss and evaluate them together with other engineers and non-engineers."

Source: Van de Poel, Ibo, and Lambèr Royakkers. Ethics, technology, and engineering: An introduction. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

    Starting from the observation that 'engineers have a moral duty to reflect on the ethically relevant choices they make during the design process' (van de Poel et al., 2006), we take ethical reflection to involve a process in which all relevant values are made explicit and taken into account. For example, in the design process which is informed by ethical reflection, 'engineers should, for example, reflect on the choices they make regarding the relative importance of safety, economic, and sustainability considerations' (van de Poel et al., 2006).

    How does one recognise ethical reflection? 'Typical for ethical reflection is that the actual existing way of dealing with moral issues is not taken for granted. Rather, the ethical acceptability of the current way of dealing with moral issues is at stake or, if such a way does not (yet) exist, the question is what an ethically acceptable way to deal with the moral issues at hand would be.' (van de Poel et al., 2006)

    Source: Van De Poel, Ibo, and AC van de van Gorp. "The need for ethical reflection in engineering design: The relevance of type of design and design hierarchy." Science, technology, & human values 31, no. 3 (2006): 333-360.

     

     

     

    Insight

    Fostering insight or awareness has the aim of increasing the students' understanding of 'the complex public decision-making processes and procedures in which engineers may become involved surrounding the use of technology and into the ethical aspects of such processes and procedures' (van de Poel et al., 2001).

    Source: Van de Poel, I. R., H. Zandvoort, and M. Brumsen. "Ethics and engineering courses at Delft University of Technology: Contents, educational setup and experiences." Science and Engineering Ethics 7, no. 2 (2001): 267.

    Transfer of skills and knowledge

    The transfer  of  knowledge  and  skills is meant to  'enable  engineering  students  to recognise and analyse the ethical aspects and problems of their future professional practice,  and  to  enable  them  to  conduct  a  solution-oriented  debate  on  such problems' (van de Poel et al., 2001)

    Source: Van de Poel, I. R., H. Zandvoort, and M. Brumsen. "Ethics and engineering courses at Delft University of Technology: Contents, educational setup and experiences." Science and Engineering Ethics 7, no. 2 (2001): 267.

    Focus on systemic challenges

    'the  behaviour  of  individual  engineers  is  not  the only source of ethical problems in technology and engineering. Engineers often work in contexts that make it very difficult for them to adhere to what they or others would consider to be ethically acceptable ways of acting.'... 'attention should also be paid to the contexts in which engineers work, and to an ethical analysis of that context that may result in proposals for changes in that context.' (van de Poel et al., 2001)

    Source: Van de Poel, I. R., H. Zandvoort, and M. Brumsen. "Ethics and engineering courses at Delft University of Technology: Contents, educational setup and experiences." Science and Engineering Ethics 7, no. 2 (2001): 267.