High school STEM teacher perspectives on the importance and obstacles to integrating engineering ethical issues in their courses. Conference Proceeding uri icon



  • Engineering topics are increasingly being integrated into K12 STEM education. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrate engineering into science education such as defining engineering problems, designing solutions, and the “influence of engineering, technology, and science on society and the natural world.” The NGSS make no explicit mention of ethics in the context of engineering, although societal and environmental impacts regarding engineering are considered to be macroethical themes. Though Colorado adapted the NGSS in K12 education statewide, the fourth standard of engineering was not adopted. It was of interest to determine whether Colorado high school teachers believe that it is important to integrate ethical and/or societal issues into STEM courses they teach, and any obstacles they perceived to this integration. This exploratory research interviewed 14 STEM teachers from 13 different high schools in Colorado, including 7 who primarily taught engineering. Interview transcripts were analyzed using emergent coding methods. Most teachers believed that ethics, environmental, and/or societal impacts (EESI) are important in K12 STEM education. The extent of importance and why EESI was believed to be important varied among the teachers, with some teachers viewing environmental/societal impacts and ethics as congruent, and others viewing these as distinct and having different importance. Each teacher interviewee identified one or more obstacles to engineering ethics integration. The obstacles fell into seven categories. For all seven, one or more teachers described these as challenges that were able to be overcome. However, five of these obstacles were considered barriers that were not presently being overcome for one or more teachers (e.g. teaching standards, comfort level, negative perceptions by students and/or parents, students struggle to understand ethics). The research findings highlight that incoming engineering students may have different views about the importance or lack of importance of ethical issues in the design process, and highlight opportunities to enhance the integration of EESI into STEM.

publication date

  • July 26, 2021

Date in CU Experts

  • December 13, 2021 1:26 AM

Full Author List

  • Lewis J; Bielefeldt A

author count

  • 2