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First-Year Engineering Students’ Environmental Awareness and Conceptual Understanding through a Pilot Sustainable Development Module

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Conference

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

FPD IX: Research on First-Year Programs and Students, Part II

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

21

Page Numbers

22.721.1 - 22.721.21

DOI

10.18260/1-2--18002

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/18002

Download Count

145

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Paper Authors

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Nicole R. Weber Purdue University

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She is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. degree in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. At the University of Massachusetts, Boston, she received her Ph.D. in Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Science Education. Her current research is working in “sustainable engineering” education, creating awareness of engineering as a “caring” discipline. A discipline where engineers incorporate the ecological footprint into their design, keeping in mind related social and ecological impacts.

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Melissa Dyehouse Purdue University

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Melissa Dyehouse is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE). She received her M.S.Ed. and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Purdue University with a focus on educational research methodology and assessment. Her research at INSPIRE focuses on the learning and teaching of engineering as a "caring" discipline in the context of environmental and ecological concerns.

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Constance A Harris Purdue University

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She is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In addition, she earned M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University located in Chicago, Illinois, and a M.A. in Communication Studies from Purdue University, Calumet located in Hammond, Indiana. Currently, she works as a research assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research interests include teacher belief systems, web 2.0 technologies, and problem-based learning.

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Ray David Purdue University

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Jun Fang Purdue University

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Inez Hua Purdue University

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Inez Hua is a Professor in the School of Civil Engineering the Division of Environmental and
Ecological Engineering. She is also an Associate Director of the Global Engineering Program.

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Johannes Strobel Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Johannes Strobel is Director of INSPIRE, Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning and Assistant Professor of Engineering Education & Educational Technology at Purdue University. After studying philosophy, religious studies and information science at three universities in Germany, he received his M.Ed. and Ph.D. (2004) in Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA. NSF, SSHRC, FQRSC, and several private foundations fund his research. His research and teaching focuses on the intersection between learning, engineering, the social sciences, and technology, particularly sustainability, designing open-ended problem/project-based learning environments, social computing/gaming applications for education, and problem solving in ill-structured/complex domains.

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Abstract

First-Year Engineering Students’ Environmental Awareness and Conceptual Understanding through a Pilot Sustainable Development ModulePURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate first-year engineering students’ awarenessof environmental issues and to examine how students’ understanding of environmental issueschanged after a sustainable development module was integrated into their first engineeringcourse. For the 21st century engineering students, solving an engineering problem withenvironmental constraints in mind should be a strength or even second nature. However, researchhas shown a lack of environmental awareness and knowledge among engineering students(Azapagic, Perdan & Shallcross, 2005; Authors, 2010; Authors, 2010).PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 1,643 first-year engineering students who were enrolled in afirst-year-engineering course and who completed and returned the baseline survey. The sampleconsisted of 1,287 males, 344 females, and 12 who did not report their sex. The survey wasadministered in September 2010 and encompassed student demographic information, as well asstudents’ initial understanding of ecological and environmental engineering. Sixty teams of fourstudents participated in a specifically designed sustainability module.SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT MODULE: The module lasts for four weeks with four hours perweek and consisted of two hands-on activities, one overall project, a presentation, and severalonline activities. The goals of the module include: 1) introducing students to Life Cycle Analysis(LCA) in theory and practice; 2) assisting students to develop an introductory level competencyresearching and analyzing the environmental impacts of everyday products using databases andExcel; 3) introducing students to the principles of engineering and game design; and 4)facilitating student team-based experiences to develop a LCA game prototype and reporting theirexperience.METHODOLOGY: The methodological framework for this study is a quantitative pre-post designwith qualitative components. The following instruments were utilized to collect data: a) Pre-PostAssessment (Environmental Issues and LCA Concepts); b) Wiki Responses to module activities;c) Artifacts (game design and team presentations); d) Peer Assessments; and e) Interviews.RESULTS: Initial results revealed that students show a lack of awareness about several aspects ofenvironmental issues. Students reported the greatest awareness about general environmentalissues on a 1 to 4 scale (mean = 2.86), while students reported the lowest awareness aboutenvironmental legislation and policy issues (mean = 1.36). Students also lacked some awarenessabout environmental tools, technologies, and approaches (mean = 2.23) as well as sustainabledevelopment issues (mean = 2.17). Water pollution, air pollution and waste were mentioned assome of the top environmental issues within the area. The majority of students responded thatthey did not receive previous environmental education in school (64.5%). Finally, while moststudents rated the role of engineering in environmental sustainability as important or veryimportant for future generations (93.1%), they rated the role of engineering in environmentalsustainability for them personally as important or very important as only 74.2%. Results from thesustainability module will be presented in the paper.IMPLICATIONS: Implications include redesign of the introductory engineering curriculum at amajor university for academic year 2011-12, incorporating more sustainable developmentcontent as well as more defined linkages about the role of engineers in sustainability.References:Authors. (2010). First-year engineering students’ environmental awareness and conceptual understanding with participatory game design as knowledge elicitation. ICLS, Chicago, IL. v1, 897-904.Authors. (2010) Not all constraints are equal: Stewardship and boundaries of sustainability as viewed by first-year engineering students. International Journal of Engineering Education, 26, 2, 339-348Azapagic, A., Perdan, S., & Shallcross, D. (2005). How much do engineering students know about sustainable development? The findings of an international survey and possible implications for the engineering curriculum. European Journal of Engineering Education, 30(1), 1-19.  

Weber, N. R., & Dyehouse, M., & Harris, C. A., & David, R., & Fang, J., & Hua, I., & Strobel, J. (2011, June), First-Year Engineering Students’ Environmental Awareness and Conceptual Understanding through a Pilot Sustainable Development Module Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18002

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