30 SES 09 A, ESE in Higher Education
This paper aims to determine and quantify the effectiveness of integrating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within engineering Higher Education (HE) curriculum as an approach for enhancing students’ subject knowledge and their acquisition of sustainable development skills in becoming professional engineering practitioners. The paper further explores the engineering academics’ perception on embedding ESD in curriculum. A case study approach has been used to explore a variety of data from Indian engineering institutions. Even though the research is conducted in India, the results on ESD implementation is applicable to most of the European Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and especially to HEI in developing countries such as Armenia.
The importance of engineering HE and its’ curriculum in creating learners with 21st century skills and a sustainable future cannot be overemphasised (UNESCO-ICEE, 2021; Shulla et al., 2020; UNESCO, 2019). Especially with the urgency of climate disaster and the depleting resources, it becomes essential for engineering students to learn and work towards Sustainable future (Gough and Longhurst, 2018). Creating such a curriculum would empower the students to responsibly design, manufacture products and processes which are more energy, resource efficient. More importantly it would make them agents of change who can evaluate the medium and long-term impacts of their professional practice (Kolmos, 2021; Leicht, Heiss and Byun, 2018).
Designing a curriculum with SD would require Institutional, academic commitment and understanding the importance of ESD by a variety of stakeholders (Longhurst and Gough, 2021). However, HEIs in developing countries, especially the private institutions, which form mass of the newly founded institutions, are reported to be mostly concerned with the students’ scores and employability. Looking at Indian HEIs, even though there is a huge increase in the number of HEIs (UGC-Report, 2018), a focus on research, SD, social responsibility, social justice, etc. is reported to be lacking (Bakthavatchaalam, 2018). Despite the necessity of the education paths to prepare students for applying the received knowledge and skills to real-world topical issues, SD is not even mentioned in most cases, especially in engineering, where applications are expected to be the focus.
Few of the methods of ESD implementation within the curriculum include project works, induction programme, sustainability challenges, classroom discussions, developing stand-alone modules on sustainability or inter-related modules, life-cycle analysis etc. (Wamsler, 2020; Daub et al., 2020; Leifler and Dahlin, 2020; Molderez and Fonseca, 2018; Roure et al., 2018). However, this research advocates the integration of sustainability throughout the students’ curriculum, thus empowering them to think of social, economic and environmental sustainability to develop their professional practice (Abd-Elwahed and Al-Bahi, 2021). This research also explores if ESD can motivate students to put more effort into their studying process for achieving the level of a professional practitioner in a particular sphere. There are several issues associated with radically changing engineering curriculum as pointed out by Dahlin and Leifler (2020) and Filho et al.(2017) including staff and management inertia, poor communication between departments, lack of facilities and incentives, staff knowledge on sustainable development and also socio-cultural factors.
From the literature, it was evident that this is a new area of research in the Indian engineering HEIs.So, as a starting point, the author decided to supplement ESD through video lectures along with regular lectures and to quantify their effectiveness in developing the students’ understanding of the subject and their attitude towards sustainability with respect to their professional self-fulfillment.
A case study approach was used to collect data from an engineering HE institution in India. Data was collected through controlled experiments, summative assessments with students and interviews with academics. The research served to test whether the implementation of the ESD pedagogic approach influenced students’ interest in the subject and how it impacted their attitude towards their professional practice. The research explored the academics’ attitude towards ESD in engineering. To test this, video lectures for three different modules were created, with each of the videos bridging the chosen subject content (Flow equation in Fluid mechanics, Gas laws in Thermodynamics and Efficiency equations in Engineering principles) with elements of SDGs. They also elucidated how the students could potentially use what they were learning to create a change. The target population comprised of third-year engineering students. The sample of 120 students were randomly divided into a control and an experimental group. A series of three lectures were conducted for both groups. The control group had regular lectures and the experimental group was taught with a modified scheme of lecturing that included ESD. Two types of quantitative data were collected: first, on the students’ comprehension of the topics (not on SD) measured by a controlled class test and second, using a semi-structured questionnaire to measure their awareness, responsibility, and significant changes they can make in terms of sustainability. Qualitatively, a total of ten in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with the academics teaching the subjects under consideration exploring their attitude towards ESD, its awareness, value, and how they embedded SD in engineering teaching and learning. The controlled class tests were evaluated ang graded for 100%. The questionnaire results were analysed statistically with T-test, correlation, factor analysis and means. The interviews were transcribed and coded. Content analysis was used to identify themes. Overall, the methodology served to collect and analyse data extensive data using a variety of tools, giving an in depth look into the embedding of ESD in engineering curriculum.
Interviews showed that the academics, despite being subject experts, lacked SDG knowledge SDGs and their importance in engineering. They were skeptical about the value of ESD and commented that it was ‘extra-curricular’, ‘not engineering’ etc. and might not directly influence students’ employability – for which their grades were considered important. The academics doubted if ESD in the curriculum would create significant changes in the students. In contrast to the academics’ comments, the quantitative results revealed an increased comprehension of the subject by the students, with the experimental group scoring 22% higher grades in the controlled class test. Analysing the questionnaire data based on means and T-tests, the experimental group showed an increased awareness, responsibility and wanting to make significant efforts towards a sustainable future compared with the control group. Factor analysis revealed three dimensions: Students’ attitude towards sustainability, their potential efforts towards sustainability and their expectations from their lecturers and curriculum. Standardised regression scores were calculated for each of the dimensions. The mean-plot of the standardised regression scores revealed that the experimental group scored higher in identified dimensions than control group (p<0.0005). The results offer an empirical proof of the positive impact of ESD implementation in the curriculum and its influence on students’ motivation towards not only on their grades, but also on their professional practice as responsible engineers. The research recommends that HEIs and policymakers commit to incorporating elements of SDGs in curriculum and to train the academics in doing so. This research recommends that rather than ESD being taught in isolation, it should be integrated within the curriculum to create more responsible graduates. Limitations of a case study applies to this work as well and future works should look at the impact of teacher involvement, curriculum wide mapping and embedding of ESD in the curriculum.
Abd-Elwahed, M. S. and Al-Bahi, A. M. (2021) 'Sustainability awareness in engineering curriculum through a proposed teaching and assessment framework', International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 31(3), pp. 633-651. Bakthavatchaalam, V. P. (2018) Motivation to conduct research in a rapidly evolving academic environment: Study of Coimbatore’s engineering institutions. PhD, University of Plymouth, UK. Daub, C.-H., Hasler, M., Verkuil, A. H. and Milow, U. (2020) 'Universities talk, students walk: promoting innovative sustainability projects', International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 21(1), pp. 97-111. Filho, W. L., Wu, Y.-C. J., Brandli, L. L., Avila, L. V., Azeiteiro, U. M., Caeiro, S. and Madruga, L. R. (2017) 'Identifying and overcoming obstacles to the implementation of sustainable development at universities', Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 14(1), pp. 93-108. Gough, G. and Longhurst, J. (2018) 'Monitoring Progress Towards Implementing Sustainability and Representing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Curriculum at UWE Bristol', in Filho, W.L. (ed.) Implementing Sustainability in the Curriculum of Universities Approaches, Methods and Projects World Sustainability Series. Swiss: Springer, pp.279-290. Kolmos, A. (2021) 'Engineering Education for the Future', in UNESCO (ed.) Engineering for Sustainable Development. Paris: UNESCO, pp.121-128. Leicht, A., Heiss, J. and Byun, W. J. (2018) Issues and Trends in Education for Sustainable Development. Paris: UNESCO. Leifler, O. and Dahlin, J.-E. (2020) 'Curriculum integration of sustainability in engineering education – a national study of programme director perspectives', International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 21(5), pp.877-894. Longhurst, J. and Gough, G. (2021) Education for sustainable development guidance. Molderez, I. and Fonseca, E. (2018) 'The efficacy of real-world experiences and service learning for fostering competences for sustainable development in higher education', Journal of cleaner production, 172, pp.4397-4410. Roure, B., Anand, C., Bisaillon, V. and Amor, B. (2018) 'Systematic curriculum integration of sustainable development using life cycle approaches', International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(3), pp.589-607. Shulla, K., Filho, W. L., Lardjane, S., Sommer, J. H. and Borgemeister, C. (2020) 'Sustainable development education in the context of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development', International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 27(5), pp. 458-468. UGC-Report (2018) Statistics about Indian Educational system, New Delhi: UGC. UNESCO (2019) Framework for the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Beyond, Paris. UNESCO-ICEE (2021) Engineering for Sustainable Development, Paris. Wamsler, C. (2020) 'Education for Sustainability: Fostering a More Conscious Society and Transformation towards Sustainability.', International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 21(1), pp.112-130.
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