Call for Participation

Workshop on Teaching Ethics in Software Engineering Programmes

To be held at the 17th Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training (CSEE&T)

Norfolk, Virginia, USA - March 1-3, 2004


Organisers: J. Barrie Thompson1 and Elizabeth Towell2,



1 School of Computing and Technology

University of Sunderland

 St. Peter’s Way, Sunderland, UK


2 Carroll College

 100 N. East Avenue, Waukesha, WI



     To operate effectively in today’s volatile software industry, graduates from Software Engineering programmes need to be equipped with knowledge of both real world situations and best Software Engineering practice. This knowledge should include relevant aspects of ethical, professional, and legal issues and there should be recognition that facing ethical dilemmas is highly likely to be an integral part of the graduate’s eventual career. Also, professional bodies such as the ACM and IEEE-CS in the United States and the British Computer Society (BCS) in the United Kingdom have always placed a great emphasis on ethical issues. The BCS in particular pays special attention to the way in which ethical topics are addressed when it is accrediting university programmes [1]. There is thus a clear need for ethical issues to be addressed within Software Engineering programmes in an effective and meaningful manner. The importance; of such ethical and professional issues is clearly recognised within the guiding principles for the Software Engineering volume of the Computing Curricula, currently being developed under the auspices of the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS) and the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) viz:

"The education of all Software Engineering students must include student experiences with the professional practice of Software Engineering, The professional practice of Software Engineering encompasses a wide range of issues and activities including problem solving, management, ethical and legal concerns…" [1]


Another indication that the Software Engineering community recognises the importance of addressing ethical issues within academic programmes occurred at the 2003 CSEE&T conference. The paper by Towell entitled “Teaching Ethics in the Software Engineering Curriculum” [3] resulted in a very lively discussion that continued all the way though the next timetabled slot when the scheduled speaker failed to appear. However, there are difficulties in addressing ethical issues within programmes. There is a lack of consensus regarding whether the topics should be covered in tailor-made modules or whether they should permeate the curriculum. Also there is little information on differing teaching approaches and their effectiveness. This is unlike the situation for technical subjects within the curriculum where there is typically not only a body of knowledge on the subject itself but also on the relevant pedagogy.

Workshop Objectives

In this workshop the following objectives will be examined:

1.       To consider different approaches that can support the teaching of ethics within Software Engineering and related programmes such as [3, 4]:

·         Discussion of an instructor’s personal experiences.

·         Reviewing various codes of ethics such as the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice produced under the auspices of IEEE-CS and the ACM.

·         Using case studies such as the Killer Robot to highlight particular ethical considerations.

·         Using role-play to engage students in the exploration of ethical situations

·         Using games such as Lockheed Martin's “The Ethics Challenge”

·         Employing Web-Based Learning Systems such as Walter Maner's Interactive Computer Ethics Explorer.


2.       To consider the pros and cons of different approaches and to share participants' experiences especially with regard to possible problematic areas that are best avoided.


3.       To identify particular approaches that can be successful within different teaching/learning environments (e.g. traditional lecture-based classes, distance learning at remote centres, and individual web-based learning).


4.       To produce recommendations and identify areas for further work that could result in a better understanding of ethics issues by students and a more effective use of what are often limited resources for teaching.

Position Papers

     Position papers relevant to the objectives listed above should be sent to:


J. Barrie Thompson,

School of Computing and Technology

University of Sunderland

St. Peter's Way, Sunderland, UK


From whom further information can also be obtained

Final Deliverable

     A final outcome of the workshop will be the production of a report detailing the major recommendations relevant to the objectives. This will be circulated to participants and a paper based on it will be submitted for journal publication.


[1] Computing Curricula Software Engineering (CCSE), - the Software Engineering volume of CC2001, the first draft of the volume was released for public comment via the project's web site in August 2003 where further information can also be found:


[2] Thompson J. B. and Edwards H. M. (2001), "Software Engineering in the UK 2001"  Forum for Advancing Software Engineering Education (FASE), Vol. 11, No.119 (141stth issue), November 15th 2001, pp 1-18, FASE archive is available at:


[3] Towell, E. (2003). “Teaching Ethics in the Software Engineering Curriculum”, Proceedings of the Sixteenth Conference on Software Engineering Education & Training, Madrid, Spain.


[4] Towell, E. and Thompson J. B . “A Further Exploration of Teaching Ethics in the Software Engineering Curriculum", submitted for consideration for Seventeenth Conference on Software Engineering Education & Training,