TUES: Collaborative Research: Integrating Sustainability Grand Challenges and Experiential Learning into Engineering Curricula

Project: Research project

Project Details


TUES 2 Proposal Summary: Integrating Sustainability Grand Challenges and Systems Thinking into Engineering Curriculum PI: Amy E. Landis, ASU (Amy.Landis@asu.edu) Collaborators: University of Pittsburgh, Community College of Allegheny County, Mesa Community College, Laney College The next generation of engineering professionals must be prepared to solve complex and multidisciplinary problems in a sustainable and global context. To train the next generation of engineers, we must transform higher education, creating institutions that are committed to excellence, access and impact where students and faculty link to local and regional issues and undertake applied sustainability challenges that impact the social, environmental, and economic evolution of the nation. There have been two methods of integrating grand challenges such as sustainability into the curriculum termed herein as: the focused class method, where a program includes one or two courses into the students curriculum that focus on the grand challenge. For example, the University of Pittsburghs CEE program requires that students take a sustainability requirement, for which there are two courses available for students to choose from: Topics and LCA. Alternatively very few institutions employ the curriculum wide method, where the sustainability grand challenge is integrated throughout the students courses. It is not clear that either method is ideal for training engineers to be critical thinkers who are able to adequately address the grand challenges facing our future generations. In fact, this proposal aims to assess both approaches to determine their effectiveness at developing engineers who are critical thinkers able to address sustainability grand challenges. In addition, the proposed research will identify any institutional and individual faculty barriers, challenges, and solutions to shifting our engineering paradigm to educate engineers prepared for the future. The University of Pittsburgh and Laney College will serve as test beds for the focused class method of integrating sustainability and critical thinking into the curriculum. The materials for three standalone sustainability courses that utilize experiential learning pedagogies will be implemented at UPitt and Laney. (Materials will be developed by ASU and UPitt and will include lectures, assessments, assignments, etc). ASU, MCC, and CCAC will serve as test beds for the curriculum wide method, where a combination of modules, workshops, mentoring approaches will be used to integrate sustainability into at least 50% of the universities courses by the end of the four year program. All five institutions will participate in faculty and student surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum, the perceptions of participants, and any barriers to implementation or opportunities for improvement. Ultimately, our vision is to enable faculty to incorporate grand challenges and experiential learning into their classrooms, with the aim of attracting and retaining a talented and diverse set of students who are more prepared to tackle the engineering challenges of a global economy. We will conduct a longitudinal study of students going through all five engineering programs, and aim to create recommendations to other universities to best integrate sustainability and systems thinking into engineering curriculum.
Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $384,998.00


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