June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Engineers are increasingly called upon to develop innovative solutions while balancing competing economic, environmental, and social design constraints. Consequently, many educators and professional organizations are calling for improvements in undergraduate engineering education to include sustainability content in order to equip students to engage in sustainable design. Indeed, ABET requires that engineering programs prepare students to consider sustainability constraints during design. Furthermore, accreditation of civil engineering programs by ABET now requires documentation that students more stringently include sustainability principles in the design process. To quantify the effectiveness of educational interventions aimed at developing sustainability-conscious engineers, appropriate assessment methods and tools are needed. Due to the broad, ill-defined, and often subjective nature of sustainability, assessment of related knowledge and design skills has proved challenging for many engineering educators. A variety of sustainability assessments, ranging from indirect to direct measures of student learning, are available but a comprehensive review of the field is needed to make the assessments more accessible and implementable by educators from across engineering disciplines.
A systematic review of ASEE conference proceedings was conducted to identify and discuss the quality of available methods for assessing student knowledge of and interest in sustainability. First, a search of the ASEE PEER database for the terms “sustainability + assessment” yielded 1001 results. Records with relevance indexes above 1.0 were screened based on their abstracts and appraised by their full texts according to four inclusion criteria: (1) The study is published during 2011 to 2016, (2) the study is published in English, (3) The study uses or presents a tool that assesses interest in, knowledge of, and/or ability to apply sustainability concepts and/or principles, and (4) The tool is generalizable to contexts beyond the presented study. Assessment tools presented in the 29 retained records were categorized according to assessment target: (1) conceptual knowledge about sustainability, (2) ability to engage in sustainable design, or (3) attitudes/beliefs/interests related to sustainability. Records and related assessment tools were further synthesized according to ASEE division, number of targets presented, directness of assessments, validity, and/or presence of scoring rubrics. Results revealed that survey items are most commonly used as indirect measures across all three assessment targets. Furthermore, analysis of records reveals that often times, several assessment tools across multiple targets are need to accurately capture the impact of educational interventions on student learning. In addition, there are gaps in the literature related to validated survey items and reproducible rubrics and scoring methods for direct assessment of knowledge and skills.
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