Compliance or Catalyst: Faculty Perspectives on the Role of Accreditation in Engineering Ethics Education Conference Proceeding uri icon



  • Despite the significant link between curricula and accreditation, there is limited research on engineering educators’ perspectives on accreditation related to ethics and societal impacts. This full research paper addresses the following research questions: (1) What are faculty members’ perspectives on the role of accreditation in engineering ethics education? (2) How, if at all, does accreditation influence their teaching practices? This research was designed to understand the influence that accreditation, as an external force, has on ethics education via the educators tasked with teaching it. This study employed an exploratory qualitative approach and drew on semi-structured interviews that probed participants’ ethics teaching practices and perspectives, including the influences and motivations related to their instruction. Interviews were completed with 20 engineering ethics educators who represented a range of engineering disciplines across 17 institutions in the United States. Inductive analysis of the transcripts indicated a bifurcated response to accreditation in the context of ethics and societal impacts education. On one hand, accreditation drove the integration of ethics in the curriculum and signaled its importance in engineering. On the other hand, accreditation was perceived to reduce ethics education to a matter of compliance, create an outsize pressure on those tasked with teaching ethics, and impinge academic freedom. The findings pointed to the varying and sometimes conflicting perspectives on accreditation. An understanding of how accreditation can either spur or stifle educators’ engagement in ethics instruction has implications for faculty motivation. The findings also highlight the need to think beyond accreditation in justifying and supporting the inclusion of ethics and societal impacts in engineering education.

publication date

  • June 26, 2022

Date in CU Experts

  • October 25, 2022 1:46 AM

Full Author List

  • Polmear M; Bielefeldt A

author count

  • 2