How and Why Instructors Include and Exclude Social, Policy, and Ethical Considerations in Design Education

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Das, Madhurima (1); Saadi, Jana I. (1); Santos, Marina (2); Roeder, Gillian (1); Ostrowski, Anastasia K. (1); Lee, Stella (3); Breazeal, Cynthia (1); D'Ignazio, Catherine (1); Yang, Maria (1); Verma, Aditi (4)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; 2: Wellesley College; 3: Johns Hopkins University; 4: The University of Michigan
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 2085-2094
DOI number:


Design and engineering are socio-technical enterprises used to solve real-world problems. However, students in these fields are often under-equipped to consider the ethical and societal implications of their work. Our prior work showed that these societal considerations are more consistently embedded in design pedagogy in non-engineering than in engineering courses at MIT. Here, we examine underlying causes for this through a survey of instructors (231 courses from 29 departments). The main contribution of this work is an analysis of whether and how instructors incorporate social, ethical, and policy considerations in design pedagogy. The majority of respondents (60.6%) included these topics in their courses, primarily through discussion of social justice, identity groups, and ethics. These concepts were included more in non-engineering courses (65.8%) than engineering courses (46.9%). Many instructors, especially in engineering, cited irrelevance as the reason for not engaging with these topics in their courses (86.1% compared to 44.2% in non-engineering). We suggest that instructors question this perception and use the examples provided as a starting point to explore integration of these concepts into their technical content.

Keywords: Design education, Social responsibility, Ethics, Equity, Justice

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