Engineering education can provide students with the tools to address complex, multidisciplinary grand challenge problems in sustainable and global contexts. However, engineering education faces several challenges, including low diversity percentages, high attrition rates, and the need to better engage and prepare students for the role of a modern engineer. These challenges can be addressed by integrating sustainability grand challenges into engineering curriculum.
Two main strategies have emerged for integrating sustainability grand challenges. In the stand-alone course method, engineering programs establish one or two distinct courses that address sustainability grand challenges in depth. In the module method, engineering programs integrate sustainability grand challenges throughout existing courses. Neither method has been assessed in the literature.
This thesis aimed to develop sustainability modules, to create methods for evaluating the modules’ effectiveness on student cognitive and affective outcomes, to create methods for evaluating students’ cumulative sustainability knowledge, and to evaluate the stand-alone course method to integrate sustainability grand challenges into engineering curricula via active and experiential learning.
The Sustainable Metrics Module for teaching sustainability concepts and engaging and motivating diverse sets of students revealed that the activity portion of the module had the greatest impact on learning outcome retention.
The Game Design Module addressed methods for assessing student mastery of course content with student-developed games indicated that using board game design improved student performance and increased student satisfaction.
Evaluation of senior design capstone projects via novel comprehensive rubric to assess sustainability learned over students’ curriculum revealed that students’ performance is primarily driven by their instructor’s expectations. The rubric provided a universal tool for assessing students’ sustainability knowledge and could also be applied to sustainability-focused projects.
With this in mind, engineering educators should pursue modules that connect sustainability grand challenges to engineering concepts, because student performance improves and students report higher satisfaction. Instructors should utilize pedagogies that engage diverse students and impact concept retention, such as active and experiential learning. When evaluating the impact of sustainability in the curriculum, innovative assessment methods should be employed to understand student mastery and application of course concepts and the impacts that topics and experiences have on student satisfaction.