June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.418.1 - 22.418.14
Defining “Sustainable Engineering”: a comparative analysis of published sustainability principles and existing coursesAs a concept and a value in engineering and engineering education, sustainability has gainedwide acceptance and importance: engineering codes of ethics and responsibilities, accreditationcriteria, statements from engineering professional societies, and viewpoint and research papers inmajor journals have all recognized the need for engineers to operate with sustainability as part oftheir toolkits and mindsets. But many have also noted that the meaning of the termssustainability or sustainable engineering are not entirely clear, nor are the implications of howadherence to sustainability principles would impact the daily work of engineers. Despite thisuncertainty, many engineering instructors, departments, and universities have justifiably begunto incorporate sustainability as a concept or motivational idea into courses and curricula.However, there remains considerable room for critical investigation of varying meanings ofsustainability and their importance to and relationship with engineering, and how educationalexperiences may need to be designed and assessed to address the complete (and varying)meaning(s) of the concept.In this paper, we present portions of a larger research project motivated in part by the researchquestion: what is the set of concepts, ideas, approaches, tools, methods, and philosophies thatcould be included as the “necessary knowledge of sustainability” for all engineering students?Empirically-based answers to this question will help inform our remaining planned work on theassessment of sustainability education in engineering. The first of several methods used toaddress this research question uses a comprehensive assessment and analysis of publishedmaterials (in archival journals and online) on sustainability or sustainable engineering. Wepresent a comparative analysis of fifteen published sets of sustainability principles (some ofwhich are drawn from the context of engineering, some from other contexts, but none in thecontext of engineering education), a summary and comparison of engineering courses nationwidethat include sustainability terms in their titles or course descriptions and textual analyses ofavailable syllabi for those courses, and a discussion of systematically generated thematic areaspresented and implied in articles and papers included in a comprehensive review of theprofessional literature related to sustainable engineering education. Through these analyses, wehave found that the stated scope of concepts and ideas included under the banners of“sustainability” or “sustainable engineering” is extremely wide and variable, and that there maybe an important disconnect between this breadth of stated sustainability ideals and a more narrowversion of topics taught in sustainable engineering courses. This research demonstrates asystematic content analysis of engineering curricular content for educational research purposes,and contributes empirical data to the continuing discussion of how best to incorporatesustainability into engineering education.
Hoffmann, S. R., & Pawley, A. L., & Rao, R. L., & Cardella, M. E., & Ohland, M. W. (2011, June), Defining "Sustainable Engineering": A Comparative Analysis of Published Sustainability Principles and Existing Courses Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17699
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