Assessing curricula contribution to sustainability more holistically: Experiences from the integration of curricula assessment and students' perceptions at the Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Watson M
  • Lozano R
  • Noyes C
 et al. 
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There has been a rapid increase on the number of engineering schools in higher educational institutions that have incorporated sustainability into their teaching. Nonetheless, curricula reforms are still needed to better educate engineers on the implications that their work has on the environment and societies in this generation and future ones. A step to facilitate this is assessing the contribution of engineering curricula to sustainability. This assessment can provide a starting point on how sustainability is being taught, and how this can be improved. This paper presents the results from the assessment of the sustainability content of the Civil and Environmental Engineering curriculum at the Georgia Institute of Technology using two complementary approaches: the Sustainability Tool for Assessing UNiversity's Curricula Holistically system and two students' perceptions surveys. The results from the curriculum assessment indicated that the courses addressed mainly environmental issues, and that the depth of coverage could be improved. The results from the students' surveys concurred with the curriculum assessment, although there were some differences in regard to social issues. Using both approaches provides a more holistic overview of the contribution of engineering courses and degrees to sustainability, and it allows detecting discrepancies between sustainability content in the syllabus and sustainability teaching in the classroom. The approaches can help to foster educational changes by: guiding university leaders in devising curricula reforms to promote sustainability learning; providing students with opportunities to reflect upon the topic; and bridging the gap between the activities being done at the university to foster sustainability and student perception of what needs to be achieved. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Curricula assessment
  • Engineering education for sustainable development
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Students' perceptions
  • Sustainability Tool for Assessing UNiversities' Curricula Holistically (STAUNCH®)

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  • Mary Katherine Watson

  • Rodrigo Lozano

  • Caroline Noyes

  • Michael Rodgers

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