Contributions of Learning through Service to the Ethics Education of Engineering Students

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Angela R Bielefeldt Nathan Canney Christopher Swan Daniel W Knight


Previous studies have found that engineering students can learn about ethics, both microethical and macroethical, through service-learning courses and co-curricular community engagements. This research has sought to generate a national picture through survey responses of how ethical issues are taught in these settings. Based on survey results, individuals who taught courses that included service-learning (n=160) incorporated a median of 8 ethical topics. Among co-curricular engineering service groups like Engineers Without Borders, a median of 7 ethical topics were incorporated. Microethical topics were more common in service-learning courses compared to co-curricular activities. A smaller percentage of co-curricular activities such as professional societies (39%), honor societies (39%), and design competitions (21%) indicated that students learned about ethics through working with communities. A range of teaching methods complemented the community engagement activities, with discussions and lectures used in over half of all learning through service settings. Assessment of students’ learning on ethical topics was nearly universal in service-learning courses (94%), but uncommon in co-curricular engineering service settings (less than 14%). These results provide ideas on ethics topics that can be infused into community engagement activities, complemented by various teaching and assessment methods.

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BIELEFELDT, Angela R et al. Contributions of Learning through Service to the Ethics Education of Engineering Students. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 2, p. 1-17, oct. 2016. ISSN 1555-9033. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 oct. 2017. doi:
community engagement, macroethics, reflections, service-learning