A 'cards Against Humanity'-Style Card Game for Increasing Engineering Students' Awareness of Ethical Issues in the Profession

Ethical reasoning is an important quality for engineers to develop, as they are the ones that are tasked with designing complex systems that can impact many lives. At the university level, formal ethical reasoning is often not taught effectively. Two common approaches are the modular approach, that might be taught during a freshman class or a senior design class, or a course taught by a non-engineering practitioner, such as philosophy professor. Ethical decision making is then perceived as disconnected from the profession because of the lack of context, the brief exposure time, or both.

In this work, a card game was developed as an instructional tool to expose students to ethical decision making. A gamified approach was chosen to determine if situating ethical scenarios in a playful form would increase student engagement with the material, and allow them to take greater risks with their response choices in the context of a game. The game structure was based on the popular Cards Against Humanity. In the game, each player draws several (white) response cards, and another player (the judge) draws a single black card containing a question or other prompt. Non-judge players choose response cards from their hand, and the judge determines the “best” black card and white card combination, where “best” is left to the discretion of the judge. For this iteration of the game, many of the prompt and response cards contain well known engineering disasters or other engineering specific ethical dilemmas

To determine the effect of the game, students are asked a series of follow-up questions during a post-play debrief session, and their ethical reasoning ability can be measured both pre- and post-play using a validated instrument such as the Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument (EERI), developed at Purdue University.