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Sustainability Competencies in STEM Education at Secondary Schools: A Systematized Literature Review

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Environmental Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jenny Patricia Quintana-Cifuentes Purdue University

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Jenny Quintana is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. Ms. Quintana completed her undergraduate studies on Technological Design in , Colombia. The degree focuses on preparing teachers in technology education for K-12 settings. After her graduation, she worked as a technology teacher for six years. It helped her to gain experience in teaching as well as develop curricula in her field, Technology Education. However, Ms. Quintana did not only work as a technology teacher, but she also had experience in teaching computer science and physics courses for tenth grades. She also held the position of Director of the Technology Department at the COLGE Colegio Gabriel Echavarria school. Ms. Quintana has a master’s degree in Technology Leadership and Innovation with a focus on Engineering and Technology education, from Purdue University. During her master’s degree, she had the opportunity to discover her research interests and their alignment with the Engineering Education program.

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Paul Asunda Purdue University


Senay Purzer Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Ṣenay Purzer is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education. She is the recipient of a 2012 NSF CAREER award, which examines how engineering students approach innovation. She serves on the editorial boards of Science Education and the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education (JPEER). She received a B.S.E with distinction in Engineering in 2009 and a B.S. degree in Physics Education in 1999. Her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are in Science Education from Arizona State University earned in 2002 and 2008, respectively.

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Alejandra J. Magana Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Alejandra Magana is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Technology and an affiliated faculty at the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a B.E. in Information Systems, a M.S. in Technology, both from Tec de Monterrey; and a M.S. in Educational Technology and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research is focused on identifying how model-based cognition in STEM can be better supported by means of expert technological and computing tools such as cyber-physical systems,visualizations and modeling and simulation tools.

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STEM education has an important role on sustainable development as it is mentioned on Agenda 21 (Development United Nations Conference on Environment) that indicated the important role of education in this process. The purpose of this study is to identify key sustainability competencies that are integrated into science, technology and engineering in middle school that align WITH the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) and Standards for Technological Literacy (STL). Using the sustainability competencies defined by UNESCO as a conceptual framework. Seventy-three peer-reviewed articles from 2013 to 2018 were gathered through a systematized literature review and analyzed through inductive and deductive methods. The deductive method was conducted by analyzing the peer-reviewed articles’ content with a focus on projects’ goals, project activities, learning outcomes targeted as well as their alignment with of the NGSS, STL standards, and UNESCO’S sustainability competencies. The research question explore in this study is: What are the key sustainability competencies integrated in Science, Mathematics, Technology, and Engineering Education in middle schools that are documented in the academic literature? The key sustainability competencies identified in previous studies were: Systems thinking, collaboration competence and critical thinking. In addition, we found that the use of real-world issues is a critical element in the implementation of sustainability in classrooms. Moreover, the inductive analysis indicated a relationship between the context and the content targeted in sustainability projects, which were observed at four levels: Level 1: Project context closer to the student (e.g. students analyzed their energy consumption in their houses by using an energy tracker program in their classroom); Level 2: Project context within students’ community (schools/county/state); Level 3: projects with a global context (e.g. projects explored energy economy, overpopulation within country and countries); Level 4: Planetary Boundaries (e.g. projects related to biodiversity, water scarcity in relation to climate change). These four levels model when use as a framework would help educators to guide the integration of sustainability and aligned it to required standards. Finally, this study identified some of the limitations in previous projects integrating sustainability competencies in middle schools.

Quintana-Cifuentes, J. P., & Asunda, P., & Purzer, S., & Magana, A. J. (2019, June), Sustainability Competencies in STEM Education at Secondary Schools: A Systematized Literature Review Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33329

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