New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Current approaches to teaching sustainability in undergraduate engineering programs tend to focus on the environmental pillar of sustainable practice, while de-emphasizing social and economic pillars. Yet, social, economic, and environmental pillars are considered equally important pieces of expert, global perspectives on sustainable development. This study complements previous qualitative studies by showing that this emphasis on the environmental is not only a distinct characteristic of sustainability education in engineering but also exemplifies the preconceptions that engineering students hold about sustainable development and practice. In fact, of a sample of 232 student at a large public institution in the Pacific Northwest, 40% of students cite the environmental pillar in their definitions of sustainability while 0.4% and 0.9% cite the economic and social pillars respectively. Of the remaining students, 55% correctly spoke of sustainability in general terms; however, their responses did not take into consideration the three pillars and nuances that make sustainability complex. When probing more deeply into how engineering students translate their views of sustainability into their roles as engineers in global society, concerns for the environment continue to dominate over other concerns. In fact, when student responses are situated into a contextual framework of design for sustainability, 57% of students emphasize the role of the planet in design for sustainability while only 1.7% cite profit and 7.3% cite people in sustainable design considerations. Engineers most often speak to the importance of increasing energy efficiency, using renewable resources, and improving waste prevention in their responses regarding their professional roles as engineers. In summary, considering student perceptions of their role in sustainability as engineers, these results clearly suggest a need to emphasize the social (people) and economic (profit) aspects of sustainable practice in engineering education.
Kelly-Quattrocchi, S., & Wilson, D., & Roberts, R., & Yonemura, R. (2016, June), Is Protecting the Environment All There Is to Sustainability? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25498
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