Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Peer Document Repository

Publication Date



Published in: Proceedings, 130th American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Baltimore, MD, June 25-28, 2023.


The need for deepening students’ appreciation for the importance of engineering ethics remains ever present. However, accomplishing this learning outcome can be challenging, as the principles often come across as abstract and distant to many undergraduates. To combat these challenges, a group-based assignment and corresponding in-class role-playing activity were developed for an upper-level ocean engineering elective course, based on a local case study about offshore wind energy development. The new pedagogical approach aims to present engineering ethics in a more tangible and relatable way by requiring students to role-play a real-world scenario from their own university’s backyard. Students worked on small teams to represent six stakeholder groups – transportation regulators, recreation and tourism, developers and engineers, commercial fisheries, as well as the pro- and anti-wind factions of the public – tasked with selecting the next location for an offshore wind farm. To prepare for the in-class activity, each team crafted an opening statement based on individualized dossiers provided by their instructor, as well as through performing their own independent research. During class, a stakeholder meeting was simulated, beginning with opening statements and site proposals from each team, followed by a round of negotiations and rebuttals, with the ultimate goal of agreeing on a location for development. Following the in-class exercise, students completed individual reflections to self-assess growth in their knowledge and skill development from participating in the simulated meeting. This paper presents the assignments and lesson plan for the newly created ethics role-playing activity, which could be adapted to represent the pressing engineering development issues relevant to any region. Further, this work explores the efficacy of this new pedagogical approach in meeting learning outcomes related to engineering ethics by analyzing student reflections following their participation in the role-playing exercise. Qualitative analysis of student work demonstrates deep engagement with the material, growth in performing research, and strengthened communication skills. Lastly, suggestions for improving the ethics role-playing activity and corresponding assignments are provided.