Changes in the Social Responsibility Attitudes of Engineering Students Over Time

Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (5):1535-1551 (2016)
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Abstract

This research explored how engineering student views of their responsibility toward helping individuals and society through their profession, so-called social responsibility, change over time. A survey instrument was administered to students initially primarily in their first year, senior year, or graduate studies majoring in mechanical, civil, or environmental engineering at five institutions in September 2012, April 2013, and March 2014. The majority of the students did not change significantly in their social responsibility attitudes, but 23 % decreased and 20 % increased. The students who increased, decreased, or remained the same in their social responsibility attitudes over time did not differ significantly in terms of gender, academic rank, or major. Some differences were found between institutions. Students who decreased in social responsibility initially possessed more positive social responsibility attitudes, were less likely to indicate that college courses impacted their views of social responsibility, and were more likely to have decreased in the frequency that they participated in volunteer activities, compared to students who did not change or increased their social responsibility. Although the large percentage of engineering students who decreased their social responsibility during college was disappointing, it is encouraging that courses and participation in volunteer activities may combat this trend.

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