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What Do Chemical Engineering Undergraduates Mean By Sustainability?

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1154.1 - 6.1154.12

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Paper Authors

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Cynthia Mitchell

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Anna Carew

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In Australia and internationally, key stakeholders in the engineering profession are exerting pressure on engineers to move towards more sustainable practice. The Institution of Engineers, Australia (IEAust) recently overhauled the processes by which many Australian engineers attain two important professional milestones: undergraduate baccalaureate and professional certification/recognition. Sustainability now holds a prominent position in both processes. In this paper, using a student-centered framework for understanding learning, we investigate undergraduate chemical engineering students conceptions of sustainability, and their propensity to learn more about sustainability. We use the SOLO taxonomy to categorize students’ conceptions of sustainability as naïve, intermediate, or sophisticated. We then use these categorizations as the lens through which we interpret the students’ scale responses to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors, and a range of sustainability attributes. We demonstrate direct linkages between complexity of an individual student’s conceptions and their interest in learning more about sustainability. This result has important implications for the design and implementation of activities for learning about sustainability in engineering.

Mitchell, C., & Carew, A. (2001, June), What Do Chemical Engineering Undergraduates Mean By Sustainability? Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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