Eyes Wide Shut? Non Referring, Loyalty and Practical Moral in Engineering Education
Book chapter, 2012

The relationship between technology and society may be conceptualized as a seamless web in a form of coevolution. In modern societies, this coevolution, which includes engineering design and related ethical issues, is largely a kind of social experiment. To prevent unnecessary problems, Martin and Schinzinger suggest that engineers should seek to act ethically. This chapter examines how engineering students develop, or not, ethical concerns and practices in their everyday work. It is based on a case study using mixed methods and focusing on students in mentor companies during their Master’s degree program. The educational context is understood as a Mode 2 knowledge production representing a triangular relationship between the student, the university supervisor, and the mentor company where power and authority are distributed and shaped over time. Moreover, the student’s role is conceptualized as being a legitimate peripheral participant in engineering practices and consequently in the enactment of practical morality. The students work on problem-oriented projects and deal with complex decision-making processes. Having to face the constraints and limits of real-life project development in an organization, they struggle within a web of technical knowledge; loyalty relationships to various actors, norms, and regulations; as well as market demands. These tensions and their related trade-offs inherent to quick decision-making leave little space and time to reflect on ethical questions. Nevertheless, one can trace moral concerns in the students’ processes during their studies.

practical morality


engineering ethics

Student mentorships

mode 2 knowledge


Martine Buser

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Christian Koch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management


978-94-007-5281-8 (ISBN)

Subject Categories

Educational Sciences

Other Civil Engineering

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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