Ethics Education and Its Relationship to  Undergraduate Construction Students' Professional Ethical Sensitivity

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Virginia Tech

The construction industry is inundated with many ethical problems that have supported its negative stigma as an unethical and corrupt industry. This inundation instigates the requirements of ethics instruction by accrediting bodies of construction education with the art of teaching this secondary topic left up to construction educators. Literature offers suggestions; however, there is not much understood regarding pedagogical best practice to ensure students are ethically sensitive (aware) to ethical issues related to the construction industry. This research attempts to move toward an understanding of construction ethics education's influence on students' ethical sensitivity. Two research strands were employed. The first strand included the development of a broad collection of ethics pedagogical techniques used in construction education (independent variable), via the administration of a how ethics is taught in construction survey (HETC) to both faculty and students of purposefully selected construction programs. The second strand included the development and administration of a Test for Ethical Sensitivity in Construction (TESC) to evaluate construction students' ability to recognize ethical issues that are specific to the construction industry (dependent variable). Results of the first strand illustrate a wide range of pedagogical techniques available to teach ethics in construction programs to assist and inspire the improvement of construction ethics education. Results of the second strand illustrate various degrees of difficulty students had recognizing ethical issues of the TESC and how this related to ethical content coverage in construction programs' curricula. In addition, regarding participants of this study, there were significant differences found in student level of ethical sensitivity based on program of enrollment; however, there were no significant differences found based on student recollection of the placement of ethics in their curriculum, professional experience, age, or gender. It appears that ethics education has some influence on the professional ethical sensitivity of construction students; however, more research is necessary to confirm the degree of influence. Additional research is necessary to identify the most current and critical ethical issues of the construction industry to develop an auxiliary form of the TESC while controlling for other variables such as co-curricular and personal experiences.

ethical sensitivity, undergraduate construction students, construction ethics education, undergraduate construction education