June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.26.1 - 15.26.15
A Developing-Country Case-Study Approach to Introducing Environmental Engineering Students to Nontechnical Sanitation Constraints in Developed Countries
By studying only closed-ended technical problems, environmental engineering students often fail to appreciate critical interrelations between technical and nontechnical aspects of sanitation. To address this deficiency, a case-study module on sanitation for the developing world was implemented in a senior/graduate level onsite water reclamation course. The goal was to increase student awareness of the interplay between technical and nontechnical complexities when designing and implementing sanitation systems in both the developed and developing world. Learning objectives included increasing student familiarity with (1) perceptions and treatment options of sanitary waste in developing countries and (2) nontechnical constraints and issues (such as economic, social, cultural, political, and ethical) associated with sanitation.
Content was integrated into the course using a case-study approach. Between weeks three and seven of a 15-week semester, students investigated and contrasted common sanitation practices in the U.S. and developing nations and then began work on mini-case studies focused on specific communities in developing countries. Guest speakers supplemented instruction by sharing experiences from living and working in such communities and overseeing sanitation-engineering projects. In week nine, student teams described their chosen community, its relevant demographics, current sanitation practices, and the team’s initial sanitation options. In week 12, student teams identified key community stakeholders, conducted a sanitation options assessment, and assembled evidence to support their recommended option.
The same test was administered in the second and 14th weeks of the semester to assess student understanding of technical and nontechnical issues associated with sanitation engineering in both developed and developing contexts. This paper presents the case-study module design and implementation, measurement instruments used to detect change and a detailed statistical analysis of the case-study module’s impact in the classroom. Nonparametric statistical analysis measured statistically significant increases in student responses regarding technical and nontechnical sanitation issues, similar to a previous wastewater engineering class in which significant increases were also detected. The results of this investigation support the potential for broader use of this case-study module beyond the course for which it was developed.
Upper-division undergraduate and early graduate students are often unfamiliar with issues involved in sanitation outside the developed world. Students thus regularly extrapolate technical solutions from the developed to the developing world, often without appreciating the problematic gap between the two contexts. From a technical standpoint, centralized sanitation approaches are common for urban areas and population centers in the U.S. and other developed nations. But in many situations within the U.S., and more so in developing countries, such options are neither cost-effective nor sustainable due to low-density development, rugged topography, limited water
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