You are here: Home / References & Resources / Sustainability / Standards for Sustainability in Engineering Education

Standards for Sustainability in Engineering Education

Tom Phillips summarizes the Meta-referential in a form that might be understood by many readers.

 

 

Social responsibility is a key element in much of the current concern about sustainability. It is reflected in the choices that must be made by leaders in technology, government, business and industry.

These should be informed choices with regard to:

  • Management of the environment in a broad sense. Energy Management bears on this, as will be shown in the upcoming ISO 50001 document
  • Current and planned actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the production of energy. Related choices pertain to alternative energy sources, building design & construction, low-emission vehicles, rational energy use (see also ISO 50001), and the rational use of raw materials
  • Health and safety issues within the purview of the productive organisation
  • Consumer protection in a broad sense, including health & safety issues, and the provision of public information
  • Corporate ethics, in relation to positive or negative consequences and social impact

Various Levels of Action

Actions may be developed at various levels:

  • Institutional development of models consisting of values and corresponding actions
  • Efforts to foster a student awareness and realistic vision of needs and problems
  • Identification of new skills and occupational profiles in relation to job requirements, education, and training
  • Need analyses with regard to new methodologies, including a critical analysis of current technologies and their impact

 

Transition from Traditional Standards to a Broader Approach

Traditional evaluation or accreditation standards test for specific conditions or attributes which might be applicable to teaching and learning about sustainability. They may not work as well where the prime concern is attitudinal and organizational change. Examples of this include:

  • The importance of contextualization; the breadth and depth of vision. Educators must understand why certain kinds of knowledge and skills are necessary and useful.
  • The role of the institution
    • As a source and example of emerging values, i.e., a broader view of engineering practice
    • For the strategic conception and planning of engineering education
    • As a base for efforts to foster student personal development
    • As a working model of what it teaches
  • Active student involvement in the direction of his/her studies and future career.

Curricular change, especially in the conception of problem- and project-based learning, should recognize that:

  • Vision and foresight in decision-making can be more important than technical expertise for making and implementing decisions
  • An awareness of the effective context of decisions is an obligation.
  • The realization of initiatives heavily depends on individual motivation and disciplined effort

Sustainability and Educational Strategy

  • The institutional culture and embedded values are of great importance if sustainability is to be “sustainable.” The existence of strategies is evidence of this durability.
  • There is a need to introduce new theoretical and practical content, but this should follow from a strategic reorientation. Thus, the initial question is not how the subject will be presented, but why certain topics are chosen. It then makes sense to choose between courses, modules, projects, exercises, demonstrations, etc.
  • An effective sustainability strategy should involve students; e.g., in exercises or projects which emphasize decision-making, and in external activities in the community.
  • Certain things should be introduced to or strengthened in engineering programs:
    • Contextual awareness (needs, resources, constraints)
    • Required scientific, technical skill, or practical know-how
    • Methodologies for the decision-maker and planner; e.g. impact studies and  multidisciplinary approaches
    • New transverse skills; e.g., crisis communication, risk management, a grasp of policy formulation and implementation, etc.
    • Matching of pedagogical practices with learning objectives; e.g., use of placements, projects, stages, etc.
    • New or expanding professional profiles; e.g., ecological- environmental- resource management engineers...
  • The institution as a model
    • The commitment of institutional management to a sustainability policy, as shown in institutional strategy, identity, values, etc.
    • Visible good practices; e.g., energy efficiency, environmental protection, waste management, safety, etc.)
  • Research activities with a strategic direction in the choice of topics
  • Targeting the student body for efforts to secure their involvement in sustainability, i.e., activities inside the institution and through external involvement

A constructive approach is to apply existing activities to well defined challenges, such    as:

    • Life cycle analysis
    • Development of alternative energy sources with smaller carbon-footprint
    • Energy conservation (cities): efficient use of raw materials and recycling
    • Transportation policies, eco-building practices
    • Risk prevention
    • Social participation in policy choices
    • Continued learning for engineering professionals
    • Eco-systems and biodiversity

Criteria for Action in Selected Areas

Criteria are the indicators that something has been, or should be done to meet a standard. We propose a sustainability strategy for engineering education that contemplates four dimensions:

 

Research & Innovation in Cooperation with Industry

The Institution and Faculty

Education and Curriculum

Student Involvement

 

The Strategic Fulfilment Grid presents seven topical areas that cut across the four dimensions:

 

Environment, pollution,

waste management, remediation

Energy conservation, recycling, conversion

Eco-

building

Life-cycle analysis & design

Natural & water

resources

Eco-systems &

Bio-diversity

Health, safety

& risk

 

 

There are similar challenges in these and other topical areas:

 

In the educational dimension:

  • Scientific or technical knowledge and practical skills.
  • Methodologies, tools, techniques; e.g., impact studies, multidisciplinary approaches, life cycle analysis, new approaches to design.
  • New transverse skills; e.g. crisis communication, risk management, policy analysis- formulation-implementation, etc.
  • Learning objectives consistent with new professional profiles
  • Context awareness: Familiarity with sustainability-related international standards, including the ISO series

 

The Institution and Faculty

  • Institutional management treats sustainability as an element of operational strategy, institutional identity and values
  • There is evidence of good practices; e.g., in energy efficiency, environmental protection, waste management, safety and health of staff and students, etc.
  • Research activities include subjects related to sustainability

The Student Dimension

  • Support for activities inside and outside the institution;; e.g., participation in cleaning, remediation, and conservation campaigns; outside involvement in NGOs, community organizations and humanitarian efforts

 

 

 

Descriptive Rating

Phases in

Action Cycle

0.0 – 0.9

Minimal evidence

or activity

1.0 - 1.9

Less than sufficient

2.0 – 2.9

Sufficient

3.0 – 4.0

More than sufficient

1. Initial need analysis & conception: understanding  the present situation, the problem to be solved or needs to be addressed

Score

0.0 > 4.0

 

Strategic Areas for Action:

Not accurately, clearly, or fully expressed. Situation, needs and problems require further analysis and definition

Strategic Areas for Action:

Sufficient understanding of situation and problem.  Needs analyzed & defined sufficiently; further analysis is desirable

Strategic Areas for Action:

 

Firmly and precisely grasped.

Situation, problem, and needs analyzed in a systematic, complete, and precise manner that prompts action.

2. Formulate strategic objectives and translate into action plans.

 

Score

0.0 > 4.0

 

Strategic objectives and plans:

Not sufficiently clear, focused, or specific.

 

The connection between (1) Strategic Areas, (2) Strategic Objectives, Plans, and intended results needs to be more clearly defined

 

Action plan: weak in one or more respects: clarity & credibility of objectives & intended results; feasibility; timeline; support; tasks and responsibilities

Strategic objectives and plans:

Analyzed and defined with sufficient insight, clarity, and precision.

Action objectives: sufficiently focused, specific, and connected to the intended strategies. Some strategic choices need further explanation

Action plan: Sufficient in terms of clarity & credibility of objectives & outcomes; feasibility; timeline; support; tasks and  responsibilities. One or more areas need further attention

Strategic objectives and plans:

Analyzed and defined with a high level of insight, clarity, and precision.

 

Action objectives well-focused, specific, in line with the chosen strategies and intended results.

 

Action plan: Complete and above average in terms of clarity of objectives, methods,  intended results, feasibility; timeline, support, tasks and responsibilities

3. Full and systematic implementation

Score

0.0 > 4.0

 

Elements of the action plan have not been implemented/ or they are not sufficiently documented/ or the plan, as implemented, does not correspond to the identified needs, problems, or original action plan

Key elements of action plan have been sufficiently implemented.  Some facets of the plan need further description  or adjustments

All elements of the action plan have been implemented in a strong and decisive manner. The actions taken are more than sufficient in terms of content, approach, and response to needs or problems

 

 

Phases in Action Cycle

0.0 – 0.9

Minimal evidence

or activity

1.0 - 1.9

Less than sufficient

2.0 – 2.9

Sufficient

3.0 – 4.0

More than sufficient

4. Evaluation Scheme: observe ongoing process, verify results; validate objectives

Score

0.0 > 4.0

 

Evaluation scheme:

Insufficiently developed. One or more deficiencies; e.g., not clear regarding objectives & essential outcomes/ fails to evaluate pertinent aspects of performance/ certain assessments are inappropriate/ or the evaluation results are not in a useful form

Evaluation scheme: Sufficiently developed in terms of understanding the objectives and outcomes to be validated. The evaluation approach is fairly systematic and provides a sufficient base for forward planning and improvement

Evaluation scheme:

Well-developed, with careful consideration of objectives, outcomes, and specific aspects of performance to be validated. Clear and systematic use of appropriate assessments. The scheme strongly supports improvement and planning..

5. Improvement & forward   planning

Score

0.0 > 4.0

 

Processes of improvement and forward planning are: Not defined in a clear and functional manner, including such elements as process inputs, participation and responsibility, decision-making, follow-up and effects.

Processes of improvement and forward planning are:  Sufficiently defined, but need further elaboration in terms of such elements as process inputs, participation and responsibility, decision-making, follow-up, and effects.

Processes of improvement and forward planning are: Well-defined, complete, and articulate.  Clear explanation of process inputs, participation and responsibility, decision-making, follow-up, and effects.

More than sufficient

 

 

 

15-20

Sufficient

 

 

10-14

1

Less than sufficient

 

0-9

2

3

Disclaimer and Support

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
The documents published on this website reflect the views only of their authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.