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Assessing Engineering Students' Readiness to Collaborate Sustainable Design: An Open Access Instrument for Experimentation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Understanding Students and Faculty

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.235.1 - 22.235.19



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Paper Authors


Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University

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Linda Vanasupa is a professor of materials engineering and co-director of the Center for Sustainability in Engineering at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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Qiong Zhang University of South Florida


James R. Mihelcic University of South Florida

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Dr. James R. Mihelcic is a Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering and State of Florida 21st Century World Class Scholar at the University of South Florida. He also directs the Peace Corps Master’s International Program in Civil & Environmental Engineering. Dr. Mihelcic is a past president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board. He is a Board Certified Member of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. He is lead author for 3 textbooks: Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering (Wiley, 1999); Field Guide in Environmental Engineering for Development Workers: Water, Sanitation, Indoor Air (ASCE Press, 2009); and, Environmental Engineering: Fundamentals, Sustainability, Design (Wiley, 2010).

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Julie Zimmerman Yale University


Nina J. Truch California Polytechnic State University

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Prof. Truch is a lecturer in the communication studies department at Cal Poly.

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Title:Assessing Engineering Students' Readiness to Collaborate SustainableDesign: An open access instrument for experimentationTopping the list of challenges is the imperative for designs which meet the needsof today's society without compromising the ability of future generations to meettheir own needs--sustainable design. Best practices in sustainable design drawon open, participatory collaboration with stakeholders--a rare procedure in mostengineering disciplines. This type of collaboration requires integrated ethical andsocial development as well as reflexive analysis. Few simple and accessiblemeasures of evaluating students' disposition in these areas currently exist. Wepresent here an instrument under development that has shown preliminarypromise as a "quick and dirty" measure of potential readiness to collaborate forsustainable design. It is an open-source, 17-item instrument. One of the uniquefeatures of this tool, is that we have made it and its data open (and free) to theresearch community through a web portal as a way of inviting adaptation,adoption and improvement. It targets assessment of specific constructs in thecontext of collaboration for sustainability. They are: 1) personal agency forsustainability; 2) value of self-transcendence and 3) awareness of one's limitedperspective in situations. The theoretical grounding of the constructs derive fromBandura's model of agency, Schwartz's model of universal human values, andArgyris' model of inference, respectively. At the time of this writing, theinstrument has been completed by over 200 college students. Two of the threescales have strong internal reliability with Cronbach alpha reliability measures of0.73 for construct 1) and 0.87 for construct 2). The third is weaker with aCronbach alpha of 0.47, clearly calling for a closer examination and alteration ofthe survey questions. Each of the scales accounts for 68%, 63% and 52% of thevariance, respectively. We present evidence of validity for the three scales.Construct validity is illustrated through predictable performance on the scales bycontrasting groups of students, consistency in the internal structure throughfactor analysis and expected correlations across scales. However, we recognizethat these instruments can be refined and improved; we have deployed themopenly to catalyze change. To facilitate ability of other investigators to adopt,adapt and improve this tool, we have made it and research data availablethrough an open access web interface so other researchers can contribute to andbenefit from the database. The significance of this tool and its open format is thatit provides the engineering education community with a way to participate in thebroader development and refinement of a tool that shows merit in assessingproxy indicators of students' readiness to collaborate for sustainability.

Vanasupa, L., & Zhang, Q., & Mihelcic, J. R., & Zimmerman, J., & Truch, N. J. (2011, June), Assessing Engineering Students' Readiness to Collaborate Sustainable Design: An Open Access Instrument for Experimentation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17516

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