New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Self-determination theory indicates that choice is an important component of motivation and satisfaction. Further, calls for holistically trained engineers demand that students gain knowledge in humanities and social science topics. This research explored top-ranked environmental engineering bachelor’s degree programs with regards to: (1) opportunities for students to make choices in their courses (such as free electives and technical electives); and (2) the balance of required technical and non-technical courses in the curriculum. These metrics were compared with chemical and civil engineering degrees, as well as mathematics, chemistry, and physics degrees. The curricular requirements were determined using the 2013-2014 online university catalogs, including counting and characterizing degree program credit hours as either technical coursework (engineering, math, and natural science), non-technical coursework, or free electives. Among the 19 environmental engineering degree programs explored in this study, free electives ranged from 0 to 22% of the curriculum, with a median of 0%. The total amount of the curriculum that allowed any level of choice ranged from 14 to 80%, with a median of 44%. This shows a high degree of variability among top-rated environmental engineering programs in the amount of course choices that students can make. By comparison, the median for all engineering programs at top-ranked institutions was 3% free electives and 40% any type of choice. The percentage of technical courses in the environmental engineering curricula ranged from 56 to 86%, with a median of 78%. The median across all engineering programs was very similar at 76% technical. The percentage of non-technical courses in the environmental engineering curricula ranged from 13 to 36%, with a median of 20%; similar to the median of 21% across all engineering programs. Degrees in math, chemistry, and physics had higher percentages of free electives (median 18-19%) and total choice (65-81%), and lower technical requirements (median 47-54%), as compared to engineering degrees. The results demonstrate that environmental engineering students have comparatively less choice and curricular balance that peers in natural science and math. However, there are accredited and highly ranked environmental engineering programs that allow both choice and greater curricular balance. These programs serve as examples to others who may want to design programs that allow students to exercise their innate need for autonomy and also balance their educational experience.
Bielefeldt, A. R., & Forbes, M. H., & Sullivan, J. F. (2016, June), Curricular Choice and Technical – Non-Technical Balance in Environmental Engineering Degree Programs Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26622
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