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Education for Sustainable Civil Engineering: A Case Study of Affective Outcomes among Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Sustainability in Civil Engineering Education: Service Learning, Capstone Integration, Student Affect and Rating Systems

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where interdisciplinary students learn about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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It is important that civil engineering students are educated about sustainable and resilient design. The updated Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge Third Edition (CEBOK3) has added affective domain outcomes for sustainability. This acknowledges the fact that while engineers may have the knowledge to take sustainability into account, their attitudes ultimately determine the extent that sustainability issues are thoroughly considered in their work. This philosophy of targeting affective domain outcomes aligns with the global “education for sustainability” movement. The CEBOK3 affective rubric indicates that upon completing undergraduate education individuals should “acknowledge the importance of” and “comply with the concepts and principles of sustainability in civil engineering” (levels 1 and 2). This research explored the attitudes of civil engineering (CE) students toward sustainability, both as incoming first-year students and as seniors at a single institution, including cross-sectional and longitudinal measures. The research utilized an existing survey instrument that measured: (1) the extent students’ value sustainable engineering (including belief of importance, interest, and belief of utility value to achieve future career goals; 6 items, 7-point scale); (2) affect and behavior related to sustainable engineering (4 items, 7 point scale); and (3) students’ self-efficacy or confidence in their ability to understand and incorporate societal, economic, and environmental sustainability issues (6 items; 0 – 100 scale). The value items map most closely to the CEBOK3 rubric for the affective domain of the sustainability outcome, while self-efficacy relates to personal perceptions of cognitive domain outcomes. Sustainable engineering (SE) value was high among both CE seniors and incoming first-year students from 2015-2018; the median value of 6.3 indicates students believed SE is important. Among a smaller sample of longitudinal data, SE value increased between FY and senior year. SE affect was not significantly different between incoming first-year and senior CE students, with a median of 5.0 for both. The SE self-efficacy among incoming first-year CE students had a median of 68, compared to a median among the CE seniors of 70 (marginal statistical difference). Some incoming first-year students appeared over-confident with average SE self-efficacy ratings of 100. Some differences between male and female students and international versus domestic students were found. Ultimately, a different method may be better suited to measure and explore the sustainability outcomes in the CEBOK3 affective domain rubric.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2019, June), Education for Sustainable Civil Engineering: A Case Study of Affective Outcomes among Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32687

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