Asee peer logo

Developing and Teaching a Multidisciplinary Course in Systems Thinking for Sustainability: Lessons Learned through Two Iterations

Download Paper |

Conference

2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count

22

Page Numbers

24.392.1 - 24.392.22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/20283

Download Count

40

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Fazleena Badurdeen University of Kentucky

visit author page

Fazleena Badurdeen is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and also affiliated to the Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing at University of Kentucky where she leads the Sustainable Manufacturing Systems and Supply Chains Research Group. She is also the Director for Graduate Studies in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, a multidisciplinary program in the College of Engineering. With backgrounds in Engineering and Business, Dr. Badurdeen is particularly interested in promoting multidisciplinary education. She is a Co-PI in the NSF TUES multi-year STFS project.

visit author page

biography

Dusan Sekulic University of Kentucky

visit author page

Dusan P. Sekulic is the Secat J.G. Morris Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kentucky. Dr. Sekulic is a Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Dr Sekulic holds a distinguished professorship at the Harbin Institute of Technology, China. He is author of four books published by Wiley, Hoboken, USA, The Cambridge University Press, Woodhead, Cambridge UK, and China Machine Press, Beijing, as well as numerous publications in engineering research and science journals. Dr. Sekulic is the Principal Investigator of the NSF TUES multi-year STFS project.

visit author page

biography

Bob Gregory University of Kentucky College of Engineering

visit author page

Bob Gregory is a senior staff writer in the College of Engineering, University of Kentucky. His MA and PhD degrees in English are from University of California, Irvine. After twenty years spent teaching college students how to write at a variety of colleges and universities, including Carnegie Mellon and University of Miami, Dr. Gregory currently assists faculty with multidisciplinary grant proposals and projects. Despite his lack of previous academic training in engineering, his background has been instrumental in assisting faculty in cross-disciplinary work between STEM and non-STEM fields. He serves as senior personnel in the STFS project.

visit author page

biography

Adam Brown University of Kentucky

visit author page

Adam Brown is a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, at the University of Kentucky. He received an MS degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering and BS degree in Mechanical Engineering both from the University of Kentucky. He has served as a Research Assistant for projects on Supply Chain Risk Assessment and Sustainable Value Stream Mapping. Preceding these research activities Adam held internships at GE Aviation. His current research interests include applications of queuing theory and the study of models for sustainable operation of supply chains and the effects of major disruptions on the supply chain. He serves as Teaching Assistant for the STFS course.

visit author page

biography

Hai Fu University of Kentucky

visit author page

Hai Fu is currently a PhD student in Brazing and Heat Exchanger Research Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Kentucky. He received his master’s degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China and bachelor’s degree from Southeast University, Nanjing, China. Prior to his PhD study, he worked in Shanghai Intel Asia-Pacific R&D Ltd. as a thermal engineer for one and a half years. He also studied in the University of Cincinnati for his PhD for two years before transferring to the University of Kentucky to continue his PhD studies. His current research topic involves transient phenomena of liquid mental flow in wedge-tee configuration. He serves as a Teaching Assistant for the STFS course.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Discoveries from Developing and Teaching a Course involving Engineering, Design, Education and Business DisciplinesThe isolation of students in STEM education from each other’s fields (and thus otherperspectives) tends to be one of the major challenges to improving undergraduate education inthese fields. The isolation and divergence from those in other fields tend to increase as studentsprogress to reach their third and fourth years; they become acculturated to their own discipline’smethods and assumptions, which is as it should be. However, this is also often accompanied byon a narrower focus on everything outside one’s own disciplines which is increasinglyproblematic as real world problems tend to get more complex and finding workable solutionsrequire collaboration and cooperation between the different disciplines.Systems Thinking for Sustainability (SFTS) is an innovative team taught cross-disciplinarycourse for undergraduates from four colleges –Engineering, Design & Architecture, Educationand Business/Economics—developed in an attempt at understanding how to address disciplinaryisolation and improve STEM education. The project, funded by a National Science Foundationgrant, involves a unique effort by a group of faculty from these four colleges to apply a broader,systems-based perspective to practical problem solving. The course uses the lens of systemsthinking for sustainability where students are introduced to relevant systems and sustainabilityconcepts, issues and challenges. Student teams are then challenged to investigate, create andexchange and integrate new tools and techniques to transition to sustainability.The STFS project reveals and reiterates that disciplinary cultures are highly resistant to changewhich make developing and delivering such courses considerably more work for instructors thanteaching traditional courses. While the experience of thinking and working across disciplines isvalued by the students in the end, success in multidisciplinary courses requires more effort fromthose in some disciplines than others. Further, to be successful, the implementation of suchcourses also require institutional and administrative support, particularly because existingmethods of faculty effort assessment are not suited to realistically assessing and recognizing timeand effort devoted to developing and teaching such courses.Integration across engineering contexts alone is difficult; the challenges of collaborating acrossdiverse disciplines are much more complex, both for faculty as well as students. This paper willshare these experiences gained by delivering two iterations of the STFS course particularly fromthe perspective of engineering faculty collaborating with their counterparts in other diversedisciplines to develop and teach a multidisciplinary course. The challenges faced and extensivedeliberations that were required to identify and agree upon course content, different pedagogicalmethods used, team teaching efforts, determining faculty roles and responsibilities methods ofevaluating student learning as well as identifying and managing the umbrella project will bediscussed in detail.

Badurdeen, F., & Sekulic, D., & Gregory, B., & Brown, A., & Fu, H. (2014, June), Developing and Teaching a Multidisciplinary Course in Systems Thinking for Sustainability: Lessons Learned through Two Iterations Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20283

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015