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Project-based Learning as a Vehicle for Social Responsibility and Social Justice in Engineering Education

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Ethical Awareness and Social Responsibility in a Corporate/Team Context

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Greg Rulifson P.E. Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Greg currently teaches in Humanitarian Engineering at Mines where he bridges the gaps, so to speak, for the many students who do not quite see how their future engineering careers, design, and humanitarianism can be woven together. Greg earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice from UC Berkeley where he acquired a passion for using engineering to facilitate developing communities’ capacity for success. He earned his master's degree in Structural Engineering and Risk Analysis from Stanford University. His PhD work at CU Boulder focused on how student's connections of social responsibility and engineering change throughout college as well as how engineering service is valued in employment and supported in the workplace.

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Carrie J. McClelland P.E. Colorado School of Mines

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Carrie J McClelland is an Associate Teaching Professor at Colorado School of Mines. Carrie is a registered professional engineer with a passion for teaching the next generation of engineers to be well-rounded professionals who consider the technical aspects and the broader effects of their work. Her current research interests include pedagogical interventions in the classroom, including how to best teach technical and professional skills.

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Linda A. Battalora Colorado School of Mines

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Linda A. Battalora is a Teaching Professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines (Mines) and a Shultz Humanitarian Engineering Fellow. She holds BS and MS degrees in Petroleum Engineering from Mines, a JD from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, and a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering from Mines. Prior to joining the Faculty at Mines, Linda served in various roles in the oil and gas industry including operations engineer, production engineer, attorney, and international negotiator for oil and gas project development. She teaches Properties of Reservoir Fluids, Mechanics of Petroleum Production, Petroleum Seminar, Field Session, Fossil Energy, Environmental Law and Sustainability, and Corporate Social Responsibility. In addition to teaching in the Petroleum Engineering program at Mines, Linda teaches courses in the Leadership in Social Responsibility, Humanitarian Engineering, Energy, and Midstream Minor programs and the Natural Resources and Energy Policy graduate program at Mines. Linda is an active member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Health, Safety, Security, Environment and Social Responsibility (HSSE-SR) Advisory Committee and is Chair of the Sustainable Development Technical Section. She is also a member of multiple professional organizations including the American Society for Engineering Education, Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, American Inns of Court, American Bar Association, and the Colorado Bar Association. Her research areas include HSSE-SR, Sustainable Development, and the Circular Economy. She is the recipient of the 2015 SPE Rocky Mountain North America Region Award for distinguished achievement by Petroleum Engineering Faculty and the 2014 Rocky Mountain North America Region Award for distinguished contribution to Petroleum Engineering in Health, Safety, Security, Environment and Social Responsibility.

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Project-Based Learning as the Vehicle for Social Responsibility and Social Justice

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a pedagogy that centers learning around projects that involve students in design, problem solving, decision making, and other investigative activities. Students engaged in PBL typically work autonomously over extended periods of time to create realistic products or presentations [1]. PBL allows students to serve specific groups of people in our society, while enriching students’ learning, retention and commitment by enhancing their interest, motivation and ability to see the relevance of classroom activities to solving real world problems [2-5]. PBL is also an excellent vehicle to make visible the intertwined social and technical dimensions of engineering. This allows for deep, authentic learning of important themes such as social justice (SJ) and social responsibility (SR), which otherwise currently exist primarily on the fringes of mainstream engineering curriculum. Thus, four faculty members in both the Petroleum Engineering (PE) Department and the Division of Engineering, Design, and Society (EDS) at the same engineering university used PBL to teach students to recognize, value, and begin applying SJ and SR in courses that focus on extractive industries, sustainable community development, and assistive technologies.

This work-in-progress paper will provide a brief overview of PBL – the main principles, opportunities, hurdles, requirements, and a framework of best practices. Then, it will make an argument for using PBL as a vehicle for teaching SR and SJ, as compared to other methods of teaching. Next, concrete examples of how four faculty members have used PBL to deepen students’ understanding of SJ and SR will be presented. As these courses are being completed throughout the 2017/2018 academic year, only limited analysis as to their efficacy in teaching SJ and SR will be completed, and experiences teaching these courses compared. Finally, the paper will provide suggestions and a set of preliminary best practices for faculty who would like to bring SJ- and SR-themed PBL into their own courses.

[1] Thomas, J. (2000). A Review of Research on Project Based Learning. San Rafael, CA.

[2] Bielefeldt, A., Paterson, K., and Swan, C. Report from the February 2009 NSF Summit on Measuring the Impacts of Project Based Service Learning on Engineering Education. February 19-20, 2009. Washington, D.C.

[3] Astin, A., Vogelgesang, L., Ikeda, E., and Yee, J. (2000). How Service Learning Affects Students. Retrieved on December 6, 2009 from the Higher Education Research Institute. <>

[4] Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261 – 271.

[5] Duffy, J., Barry, C., Barrington, L., and Heredia, M. (2009). Service-learning in engineering science courses: Does it work? Proceedings of the 2009 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition.

Rulifson, G., & McClelland, C. J., & Battalora, L. A. (2018, June), Project-based Learning as a Vehicle for Social Responsibility and Social Justice in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30902

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