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Measuring Misconceptions About Climate Change Between Freshmen and Senior Civil Engineering Students

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count

15

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30797

Download Count

12

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Paper Authors

biography

Tripp Shealy Virginia Tech

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Tripp Shealy is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.

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Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change is irreversibly affecting the planet and society. Civil engineers hold responsibility to design and construct built-environment spaces that decrease climate changing emissions. The purpose of the research presented in this paper is to assess how undergraduate civil engineering programs contribute to this goal. A cross-sectional comparison between data from a prior national survey of freshmen engineering students interested in civil engineering and pilot data from a national survey to senior undergraduate engineering students was used to assess students’ belief in climate change, their understanding of climate science, and desire to address climate change in their careers. The results indicate that senior undergraduate civil engineering students are more likely to believe that climate change is caused by humans (67%) compared to freshmen engineering students (47%). These seniors are also more likely (73%) to agree that action should be taken to address climate change. Yet, only 37 percent hope to personally address climate change in their careers. Senior civil engineering students are more likely than their peers in other engineering disciplines to take classes that include sustainability and climate change as topics (predominately in engineering electives), yet their knowledge of climate science is no better, and in several instances, worse than their engineering peers. For example, civil engineering students are more likely to agree with the statement, “I believe a cause of global climate change is nuclear power generation,” and “I believe a cause of global climate change is the ozone hole in the upper atmosphere.” Undergraduate education is likely contributing to increased belief and recognition to address climate change but an educational gap still persists in understanding. Future research should explore why misconceptions still exist even when climate change is taught in engineering courses and how particular concepts are explained and how student experiences shape understanding and interest.

Shealy, T. (2018, June), Measuring Misconceptions About Climate Change Between Freshmen and Senior Civil Engineering Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30797

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