F5-T4-3 - Teaching Engineering Ethics with Drama

1. Innovative Practice Work In Progress
Peter Birch1 , Thomas Lennerfors1
1 Uppsala University, Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering

WIP. In this paper, we will explore the role that drama can play in teaching engineering ethics. As engineering ethics educators, we have long been inspired by alternative STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math)-oriented approaches, for example drawing on music/lyrics, TV-series and movies in order to involve the students, to motivate them to learn, and to mobilise a range of repertoires for the students to grasp the complex nature of engineering ethics. STEAM-oriented approaches are thus argued to be highly relevant for engineering ethics education, as well as innovative.

In early 2019, we decided to test a drama-based component, integrated with a more regular interview study. Each student in the engineering ethics class (at Uppsala University) conducts an interview with a professional engineer about the ethical issues, dilemmas, and dimensions of his or her engineering practices. We particularly encourage the students to ask for one or two critical incidents, in other words, episodes which according to the respondent illustrates what engineering ethics is in practice. The students then gather in groups of five or six students, share and discuss the critical incidents they were told by the respondents. We have worked with this method for about five years. On top of this, we have now asked the students to groupwise choose one critical incident and then enact it in front of the rest of the class, in the form of drama totalling 10 minutes (including introduction and summary).

In a preliminary survey done in March 2019, many students said that this was an interesting, innovative and fun way to study engineering ethics, and in this paper, we draw on a new survey which will be distributed to the students in order to in a more detailed way capture their experiences of the drama component of the course. As far as we know, in earlier research in engineering ethics education, drama has not been discussed to a large extent. Monk [1] discussed the use of existing drama (for example Antigone) to teach future engineers, and there are several studies about role play in ethics education, but both these approaches differ from ours. In the full paper, we will review the literature more in detail. The participants of FIE are expected to take away a way to integrate a drama-based component into their engineering ethics teaching.

 [1] Monk, J. (2009). Ethics, engineers and drama. Science and Engineering Ethics, 15(1), 111–123.