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Using Phenomenography To Investigate Different Ways Of Experiencing Sustainable Design

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

New Models for Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1559.1 - 12.1559.29



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Paper Authors


Llewellyn Mann University of Queensland

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LLEWELLYN MANN is a PhD student in the School of Engineering at the University of Queensland and a member of the Catalyst Research Centre for Society and Technology. He has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical & Space) and a Bachelor of Science (Physics) from UQ, as well as a Graduate Certificate of Education (Higher Education). Major research interests include; Engineering Education, Sustainability, Teaching and Learning, Engineering Design, Technology and Society.

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Gloria Dall'Alba University of Queensland

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GLORIA DALL'ALBA teaches and researches in the area of teaching and learning in higher education in the School of Education at the University of Queensland, Australia. She has a particular interest in professional education, learning in the workplace, and questions of research methodology. She has published articles in international journals such as Learning and Instruction, International Journal of Educational Research, and Studies in Higher Education. A forthcoming book, Learning to be a professional, will be published by Springer. She is guest editor for a special edition of the journal, Educational Philosophy and Theory, on phenomenology and education.

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David Radcliffe University of Queensland

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DAVID RADCLIFFE is the Thiess Professor of Engineering Education and Professional Development in the School of Engineering at the University of Queensland. His research draws on and involves collaboration with the social sciences including education and anthropology. David is co-director of the Catalyst Centre and Director of Professional Development in the School. He was a National Teaching Fellow, in 1994 and a Boeing-A.D. Welliver Fellow, in 1999.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using Phenomenography to Investigate Different Ways of Experiencing Sustainable Design

Introduction This paper reports research conducted on the variation in experiences of sustainable design in practice. The experiences with sustainable design of a group of twenty-two engineers and non- engineers were investigated empirically. This revealed five qualitatively different ways of experiencing sustainable design. These have implications for both improving future practice, and the education of students about sustainable design.

All Australian engineering graduates are now expected to have a working understanding of sustainable design. This is not merely an expectation of professional institutions that accredit engineering programs1, nor is it only limited to a few specific disciplines within engineering, but increasingly it is an expectation of the engineering workplace2, 3 as well as the wider society4. This expectation presents a series of motivations for investigating experiences of sustainable design to aid in improving both practice and education. To find out how to educate engineering students, we need first to find out what current professional engineers’ experiences of sustainable design are. Engineering education is a professional education, and thus aims to enable students to engage in practice in ways characteristic of competent engineering practitioners5. We cannot simply rely on academics’ current knowledge or the current literature on sustainable design to inform educational processes, as the practice of sustainable design is changing at an ever increasing pace6. We must turn to the people who are having both to deal with sustainable design on a daily basis, and who are recognized as leaders in the field, namely the practitioners of sustainable design7. Further, we need to stretch the horizons of current engineering practice, and include both engineers and non-engineers. While all still involved with engineering design activities, these practitioners are not confined to a ‘culture’ of engineering practice and can offer different insights into and perspectives of what sustainable design is and could be.

The fundamental problem with sustainable design in practice is that, like many aspects of professional practice, different people and different groups have different views of what sustainable design is. There is no commonly agreed to or shared understanding of what sustainable design means, and how it is operationalised in practice8, 9. One reason for this is that everyone’s own understanding is influenced by their own particular background, previous training, work experience and their political and economic10. These different views need to be identified in order to improve both the practice and the education of sustainable design.

The purpose of this research was to examine variations in the experiences of sustainable design among professionals involved in engineering design activities, including both engineers and non- engineers, using a phenomenographic approach11. The emphasis is on the experiences of practitioners of sustainable design all with experience in engineering operations7. These practitioners not only have to deal with sustainable design issues on a daily basis and so have many experiences to draw upon, but are also generally more aware of the current trends and applications of sustainable design in practice than other groups, such as engineering academics or policy makers.

Mann, L., & Dall'Alba, G., & Radcliffe, D. (2007, June), Using Phenomenography To Investigate Different Ways Of Experiencing Sustainable Design Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2340

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015