June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.860.1 - 14.860.18
Mapping an Undergraduate Curriculum onto the Environmental Engineering Body of Knowledge
In spring 2008 the American Academy of Environmental Engineers released a draft of the Body of Knowledge for Environmental Engineering (EnvE BOK). The BOK outlines the skills and abilities that are needed to become a licensed Professional Engineer, and describes which should be acquired as part of an accredited Bachelor’s degree. The ABET-accredited EnvE B.S. curriculum at the University of Colorado at Boulder has been mapped onto the BOK outcomes and knowledge domains. Most topics are well covered, however multimedia breadth and the knowledge domain of systems analysis are not the main focus of any required courses because our curriculum was built primarily from existing courses in Civil, Chemical, and Mechanical engineering. The outcomes of project management and business knowledge are covered primarily in the capstone design course.
The BOK document may help inspire the next generation of Environmental Engineers. As such, it was discussed in the first year Introduction to EnvE course. The students in this course wrote an open-ended essay at the end of the semester to summarize their thoughts regarding EnvE. Themes that emerged from their 57 essays covered all of the outcome areas in the BOK, but some areas were discussed by more students than others. For example, 95% of all students mentioned science competency and water, but only 12% mentioned lifelong learning and 5% uncertainty. The comparisons are interesting, as the students gathered these thoughts based on hearing five guest speakers who are practicing EnvEs and other activities in the course. It is noteworthy that 35% of the students stated that their sub-area of greatest interest was energy but the role of environmental engineers in solving the energy crisis was not emphasized in the draft BOK; the final BOK has expanded emphasis on energy. The opinions of practicing Environmental Engineers in regards to courses in our curriculum were provided in an annual alumni survey of former students 3 to 5 years after graduation. Areas of particular agreement with the EnvE BOK outcomes and knowledge domains are identified.
Overall, a big concern with the EnvE BOK is that it will be extremely resource intensive to document that all students graduating from a program have achieved the specified levels of competency for each of the 18 outcomes across the specified 16 knowledge domains. In light of this, it appears that the BOK is overly constrained. Due to the variety of career paths that students with Bachelor’s degrees in EnvE may pursue, covering all possible topics that one might need to know in the B.S. degree seems unrealistic. Some students are turned off by the major due to over constraint that leads to a loss of flexibility in coursework. In addition, the most important topics that should be emphasized may be lost in such a long list of requirements. A better approach could be to develop critical thinking skills in our students and the ability to teach themselves during their professional careers in the context of life long learning.
In spring 2008 the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) released a draft of
Bielefeldt, A. (2009, June), Mapping An Undergraduate Curriculum Onto The Environmental Engineering Body Of Knowledge Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4925
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