Incorporating a Systems Approach into Civil and Environmental Engineering Curricula: Effect on Course Redesign, and Student and Faculty Attitudes

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a brief overview of the changes made during our department level reform (DLR) process (Grant Title: A Systems Approach for Civil and Environmental Engineering Education: Integrating Systems Thinking, Inquiry-Based Learning and Catamount Community Service-Learning Projects) and some of the effects of these changes on our students and ourselves. The overall goal of the reform has been to have students learn and apply a systems approach to engineering problem solving such that when they become practicing engineers, they will develop more sustainable engineering solutions. We have integrated systems thinking into our programs in the following ways; 1) new material has been included in key courses (e.g., the first-year introductory and senior design courses), 2) a sequence of three related environmental and transportation systems courses have been included within the curricula (i.e., Introduction to Systems, Decision Making, and Modeling), and 3) service-learning (SL) projects have been integrated into key required courses as a way of practicing a systems approach. A variety of assessment methods were implemented as part of the reform including student surveys, student focus groups, faculty interviews, and assessment of student work. Student work in five classes demonstrate that students are learning the systems approach, applying it to engineering problem solving, and that this approach helps meet ABET outcomes. Initial student resistance to changing the curriculum has decreased post implementation (e.g., graduating class 2010), and many students are able to define and apply the concept of sustainability in the senior design project. Student self-assessments show support of SL projects and that the program is influencing student understanding of the roles and responsibilities of engineers in society.

 

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Nancy J. Hayden School of Engineering Education University of Vermont Burlington, VT

Nancy J. Hayden
School of Engineering Education
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna M. Rizzo School of Engineering Education University of Vermont Burlington, VT

Donna M. Rizzo
School of Engineering Education
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mandar M. Dewoolkar School of Engineering The University of Vermont Burlington, VT

Mandar M. Dewoolkar
School of Engineering
The University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maureen D. Neumann School of Engineering Education University of Vermont Burlington, VT

Maureen D. Neumann
School of Engineering Education
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra A. Lathem Department of Education University of Vermont Burlington, VT

Sandra A. Lathem
Department of Education
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adel Sadek Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering SUNY Buffalo

Adel Sadek
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
SUNY Buffalo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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