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Assessing and Enhancing Standards Education for Environmental Management and Sustainability

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

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Paper Authors


Deanna H. Matthews Carnegie Mellon University

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Dr. Deanna H. Matthews is Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Affairs and Associate Teaching Professor in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She serves as the academic advisor to undergraduate students in the department and teaches introductory and capstone courses for engineering students to understand the complex nature of technology solutions in society. Her research interests include developing student meta-cognition and assessment of individual student work in project-based assignments. She received her B.S.E. in Civil Engineering from Duke University (1994) and her M.S. (1995) and Ph.D. (2001) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

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H. Scott Matthews Carnegie Mellon University

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H. Scott Matthews is a Professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy and the Research Director of the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The Green Design Institute is an interdisciplinary research consortium at Carnegie Mellon focused on identifying and assessing the environmental impacts of systems and helping businesses manage their use of resources and toxic materials.

His research and consulting interests are in the area of valuing the socio-economic implications of environmental systems and infrastructure and industrial ecology. Of particular interest are using the Internet to facilitate environmental life cycle assessment of products and processes, estimating and tracking carbon emissions across the supply chain, and the sustainability of infrastructure. At Carnegie Mellon, he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the Departments of Economics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, and Computer Science.

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Supporting standards education for engineering students is a critical need for industry. In this project, we discuss the impact of incorporating standards education into courses on environmental management and sustainability. The research involved a pre-assessment of student knowledge about the ISO 14040 Environmental Life cycle Assessment standards, examining the coverage of standards materials in courses, and assessing gains in standards knowledge through a post-assessment. Participants included approximately 200 students from nine universities where courses in LCA, environmental management and sustainability are taught annually. Each course uses the same on-line textbook to teach various concepts associated with LCA. Over the period of research, we expanded and enhanced the textbook content related generally for engineering standards, the standards making process and organizations; specifically for the ISO 14040 LCA standards, and its uses in professional practice. Comparisons are made in individual student gains pre- and post-course, and in cohort gains prior to changing the content in the textbook.

Initial analysis indicates both positive gains in student learning about standards, and added awareness in later cohorts with additional content on standards in their text. Further work is to be completed on instructor attitudes towards the standards content and coverage.

This work helped to fill a gap in teaching environmental performance assessment by formalizing curricular elements associate with the development of the underlying standards, as well as how those standards enable the comparative assessments of processes, products, and companies. This will allow many people, beginning at the undergraduate level, to understand the important role that standards have played, and continue to play, in this domain. They will also see how the critical interconnected development of standards and practice are enabling innovative sustainable opportunities to understand and improve environmental performance.

This work was supported by a Standards Services Curricula Development Cooperative Agreement awarded by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Matthews, D. H., & Matthews, H. S. (2018, June), Assessing and Enhancing Standards Education for Environmental Management and Sustainability Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29818

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