Understanding Engineering Students' Perceptions and Knowledge about Sustainable Development and Sustainability
The Sustainable Engineering and International Development course was first offered to engineering majors at the Iowa State University (ISU) in 2005. The course is focused on describing, discussing and comparing the key concepts of sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable engineering. In 2005, sustainability was not a major part of the engineering curricula and students had little to no knowledge about these concepts. Nine years later, sustainability has become an integral part of our daily lives. In this study, we wanted to understand student perceptions, knowledge, and understanding of sustainability, sustainable development and its implementation across various engineering systems. The assessment techniques used for the study were a pre-test and a survey at the start and end of the semester, respectively. Survey results indicated that students’ ranking on usefulness of the course modules varied over the years mainly due to different engineering majors of the students in the class with diverse learning styles and pre-existing knowledge. The results of the pre-test indicated that students have knowledge about basic sustainability concepts, thus the difficulty level of the pretest was low. In the near future, focus group discussions along with the survey will be conducted to better understand student perceptions on the effectiveness of the teaching methods and overall course materials. In addition, a post-test will be conducted for the questions set developed with input from experts in specific subject areas.