Journal Title

The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development

Publication Date



Engineering is commonly thought of as a problem-solving profession (e.g. Allenby, 2009; Zhou, 2012). Still, good problem-solving depends on good problem-framing, which typically means capturing both the technical and social aspects of the problem at hand. It can though be challenging for engineering students to capture both these aspects of a problem. Cech (2014) has pointed out that significant challenges still exist within engineering curricula with regard to “reading” technical problems with multiple layers of meaning. What can be done to better this state of affairs? Fortunately, sustainability issues have caught the attention of this generation of college students (Watson et. al., 2013). Building on the student enthusiasm associated with sustainability may be one way to foster student development regarding how to include ethical dimensions as an integral part of engineering framing and problem solving. We suggest that one option to achieve this is by teaching sustainability using an ethic of care framework that offers elements that more easily engage individuals in problem framing. This approach assumes that because engineering students “care” about sustainability as it applies to their disciplines, faculty can use an ethic of care framework to help students operationalize ethics as an integral component of the engineering decisionmaking process. By building on these initial lessons, students are better prepared to consider the sociotechnical dimensions of engineering problems. Our argument draws upon examples from the University of Portland that both demonstrate how students have a difficult time translating ethical theories to engineering problems, and show how the ethic of care approach can manifest itself naturally in the engineering curricula. We hope this paper serves to facilitate efforts to intentionally use sustainability issues to improve the teaching and learning of engineering ethics and further cultivate the T-shaped engineer.


Engineering students; Engineering--Study and teaching

Publication Information

The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, 2015, 1-8.

© 2015 The Authors

Archived version is the final published version.



Document Type

Conference Paper

Included in

Engineering Commons