The Effectiveness of Ethics Education: A Quasi-Experimental Field Study
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- May, D.R. & Luth, M.T. Sci Eng Ethics (2013) 19: 545. doi:10.1007/s11948-011-9349-0
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Ethical conduct is the hallmark of excellence in engineering and scientific research, design, and practice. While undergraduate and graduate programs in these areas routinely emphasize ethical conduct, few receive formal ethics training as part of their curricula. The first purpose of this research study was to assess the relative effectiveness of ethics education in enhancing individuals’ general knowledge of the responsible conduct of research practices and their level of moral reasoning. Secondly, we examined the effects of ethics education on the positive psychological outcomes of perspective-taking, moral efficacy, moral courage, and moral meaningfulness. To examine our research hypotheses, we utilized a pretest–posttest quasi-experimental design consisting of three ethics education groups (control, embedded modules, and stand-alone courses). Findings revealed that both embedded and stand alone courses were effective in enhancing participants’ perspective-taking, moral efficacy, and moral courage. Moral meaningfulness was marginally enhanced for the embedded module condition. Moral judgment and knowledge of responsible conduct of research practices were not influenced by either ethics education condition. Contrary to expectations, stand alone courses were not superior to embedded modules in influencing the positive psychological outcomes investigated. Implications of these findings for future research and practice are discussed.