Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 387–407 | Cite as

The Engineering and Science Issues Test (ESIT): A Discipline-Specific Approach to Assessing Moral Judgment

  • Jason BorensteinEmail author
  • Matthew J. Drake
  • Robert Kirkman
  • Julie L. Swann
Original Paper


To assess ethics pedagogy in science and engineering, we developed a new tool called the Engineering and Science Issues Test (ESIT). ESIT measures moral judgment in a manner similar to the Defining Issues Test, second edition, but is built around technical dilemmas in science and engineering. We used a quasi-experimental approach with pre- and post-tests, and we compared the results to those of a control group with no overt ethics instruction. Our findings are that several (but not all) stand-alone classes showed a significant improvement compared to the control group when the metric includes multiple stages of moral development. We also found that the written test had a higher response rate and sensitivity to pedagogy than the electronic version. We do not find significant differences on pre-test scores with respect to age, education level, gender or political leanings, but we do on whether subjects were native English speakers. We did not find significant differences on pre-test scores based on whether subjects had previous ethics instruction; this could suggest a lack of a long-term effect from the instruction.


Engineering ethics Science ethics Assessment Moral judgment Ethics education 



This research was funded in part by a grant from the College of Engineering Undergraduate Initiative at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and in part by a Focused Research Program grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition, Dr. Swann was supported in part by NSF DMI-0348532. We would like to acknowledge Dr. Harry Sharp for his help with developing the scanning form for the test and converting tests to raw data and Mr. Andy Haleblian for his help in creating the electronic version of the ESIT.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Borenstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew J. Drake
    • 2
  • Robert Kirkman
    • 1
  • Julie L. Swann
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Public PolicyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.A.J. Palumbo School of Business AdministrationDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Stewart School of Industrial and Systems EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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