SEED-PA: A Practical Tool for Assessment Ethical Initiatives

Project No.
PI Name
Donald Carpenter
Lawrence Technological University

Abstract 1

SEED-PA: A Practical Tool for Assessment Ethical Initiatives

Presentation Type
Donald D. Carpenter, Lawrence Technological University Trevor S. Harding, California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo Cynthia J. Finelli, University of Michigan Ann Arbor Janel Sutkus, Carnegie Mellon University


For many years, institutions of higher education have made it a part of their mission to educate students about ethics. Within engineering programs, this emphasis on ethical development is further emphasized as engineers are called upon to モhold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public.ヤ Further, the need to graduate engineers who have a keen sense of the ethical and social implications of engineering work is emphasized in accreditation requirements established by ABET.

Engineering colleges and programs have responded by introducing ethics instruction in a variety of ways. However, there is no conclusive evidence about which of these myriad approaches is モbest.ヤ The lack of clarity on ethical instruction and affiliated assessment tools highlights the importance of an efficient way for individuals to assess the impact of specific initiatives on their studentsメ ethical development.


The project provides a way for individuals to assess their own ethics initiatives at the major, course, or single intervention level by developing a practical assessment instrument. The project is guided by four goals:
Goal 1. Create a practical instrument for assessing individual ethics initiatives (SEED-PA)
Goal 2. Use the SEED-PA to conduct pilot studies demonstrating the utility of the instrument
Goal 3. Develop the SEED-PA Userメs Guide to assist in research design, administration, data analysis, and results interpretation
Goal 4. Broadly disseminate the online SEED-PA and the SEED-PA Userメs Guide


The underlying conceptual model of ethical development is based on our hypothesis that a studentメs ethical development is influenced by variables within four major domains: student characteristics, institutional culture, formal curricular experiences, and co-curricular experiences. The primary outcome variable ヨ ethical development ヨ is measured using three constructs: knowledge of ethics, ethical reasoning, and ethical behavior. Multiple instructors at five institutions administered the instrument to assess initiatives.


To date, the researchers have created the SEED-PA and piloted tested the instrument. Several of the key findings to date include:
ユ Use of an incentive appears to be necessary to assure sufficient response rate to the instrument for data analysis. However, the incentive need not be financial.
ユ There were no statistically significant correlations between ethical reasoning, knowledge of ethics, and ethical behavior (pro- or anti-social) as is consistent with the literature.
ユ The SEED-PA struggles to measure significant differences in measured outcome variables which may be a result of both the short time interval between pre-test and post-test, as well as, the relatively small sample sizes of the pilot tests.
ユ SEED-PA measures a studentメs attitude towards ethical instruction and the perceived pedagogical techniques used.

Overall, the SEED-PA could be a useful tool for assessing learning and evaluating innovations related to studentsメ ethical development but findings are preliminary. Next, the researchers expect to offer the SEED-PA and associated Userメs Guide for adoption.

Broader Impacts

The project was designed to build capacity to assess ethical development of engineering undergraduates, allowing users to assess the impact of their individual ethics initiatives. To date, 100s of students have completed the SEED-PA and the project has been previously disseminated at ASEE and FIE Conferences.

Unexpected Challenges

There was a challenge getting students to complete the online tools without incentives. Incentives were devised for increasing participation.

There was a challenge getting a diversity of pilot studies from PIs. We invited others to participate and they did.


Carpenter, D., Harding,T., Sutkus, J. and Finelli, C. (2014) モAssessing the Ethical Development of Civil Engineering Undergraduates in Support of the ASCE Body of Knowledge.ヤ Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, No. EIENG-429R2.

Carpenter, D., Sutkus, J., Finelli, C., Harding, T., Harris, R. and Cole, M. (2015) モAssessing the Ethical Development of Students in an Undergraduate Civil Engineering Course using a Standardized Instrumentヤ Proceedings of the 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, WA, June.

Harding T., Carpenter, D. Finelli, C., Sutkus, J. (2015) 'SEED-PA: A Practical Instrument for Assessing Individual Ethics Initiatives' Proceeding of the 2015 Frontiers in Education Conference, El Paso, TX.