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HASS Colloquim: Connecting to the Heart: Teaching Value-based Professional Ethics

February 26 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Division

Colloquium Series


Connecting to the Heart:

Teaching Value-based Professional Ethics

by Roel Snieder & Qin Zhu


Engineering programs in the United States have been experimenting with diverse pedagogical approaches to educating future professional engineers. However, a crucial dimension of ethics education that focuses on the values, personal commitments, and meaning of engineers has been missing in many of these pedagogical approaches. We argue that a value-based approach to professional ethics education is critically needed in engineering education, because such an approach is indispensable for cultivating self-reflective and socially engaged engineers. This paper starts by briefly comparing two prevalent approaches to ethics education in science and engineering: professional (teaching professional ethical standards, including codes of ethics) and philosophical (teaching ethical theories and their applications in professional settings). While we acknowledge that both approaches help meet certain ethics education objectives, we also argue that solely relying on the two approaches is not sufficient to personally engage students in authentic moral learning. We make the case that it is important to connect ethics education to the “heart” which is extensively driven by values, and discuss the practice of a value-based approach to professional ethics education. We present some classroom practices that cultivate a safe, diverse, and engaging learning environment. Finally, we discuss the implications of a value-based approach to professional ethics education for curriculum design and pedagogical practice including opportunities and challenges for engineering faculty who are eager to incorporate value-based inquiry into their classrooms.

Roel Snieder holds the W.M. Keck Distinguished Chair of Professional Development Education at the Colorado School of Mines. He received in 1984 a Masters degree in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics from Princeton University, and in 1987 a Ph.D. in seismology from Utrecht University. In 2000 he was elected as Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. He is author of the textbooks  “A Guided Tour of Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences”, “The Art of Being a Scientist”, and “The Joy of Science” (co-authored with Jen Schneider) that are all published by Cambridge University Press. In 2011 he was elected as Honorary Member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and in 2014 he received a research award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2016 Roel received the Beno Gutenberg Medal from the European Geophysical Union and the Outstanding Educator Award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He chaired a committee to articulate the role of HASS at Mines. With Carl Mitcham, Roel was instrumental in giving shape to the NSF-requirement for ethics education to NSF-funded students at Mines, and he developed and teaches the class Research,

Values, and Communication with Cortney Holles and Qin Zhu. From 2000-2014 he was a firefighter in Genesee Fire Rescue where he served for two years as Fire Chief.


Qin Zhu is an Assistant Professor of Ethics and Engineering Education in the Division of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines, where he also co-directs the Daniels Fund Program in Professional Ethics Education with Professor Sandy Woodson. Qin serves as Associate Editor for International Perspectives at the National Academy of Engineering’s Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, Book Review Editor for the Journal of Engineering Studies, Secretary and Treasurer of American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)’s Division of Engineering Ethics, and Treasurer of the Society for Philosophy and Technology (SPT). His research interests include the cultural foundations of engineering ethics, global engineering education, and ethics and policy of computing technologies and robotics.


When: February 26, Wednesday, 12-12:50 PM

Where: Stratton Hall 104


February 26
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Stratton Hall
1005 14th St.
Golden, CO 80401 United States
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