We developed this activity after learning about, and feeling inspired by, a similar practice at West Point Military Academy. We assign it at the closing of the semester, when students are able to reflect on what they learned, both about engineering/science ethics and, perhaps even more importantly, about themselves as professionals in-the-making.
Aiming to reinforce introspection about, and articulation of, the foundational values underlying each student’s moral identity, the exercise involves the creation of a wallet-size “ethics card.” This card is to feature in no more than one sentence a moral ideal that students view as an unshifting North Star, which can offer them clarity and guidance during challenging times in their careers. We encourage students to try to define this ideal in their own words. However, students also have the option to feature a quote, an existing philosophical principle, a code of ethics in their specific field, a drawing, a photograph, or any other representation that speaks to them.
Ethics cards can be plain or as artistic and creative as each student chooses. Our hope is that students will take ownership of their creations and use them in the future when they see fit.
Here are some examples (student names have been redacted):