International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Graduate student action research to help fill gaps for formal engineering education for sustainable development… Jensen, Cory D. Jun 30, 2015

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112-1 GRADUATE STUDENT ACTION RESEARCH TO HELP FILL GAPS FOR FORMAL ENGINEERING EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM FORMATION: VIGNETTES AS ACTION Cory D. Jensen1,2,3,4 1 College of Engineering and Computer Science, Colorado School of Mines, Golden CO, USA. 2 Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, USA. 3 Current Affiliation: Department of Energy, Washington DC, USA. 4 Correspondence;  Abstract: Gaps in sustainability-focussed education at higher education institutions (HEI) provide opportunities for students to help guide academic administrations towards self-directed learning experiences that concomitantly enhance organizational change and expertise within HEIs. Sustainable development could be viewed similarly in affluent settings where, for example, technology improves efficiency or in Global South settings, where providing for equity is a focus. Action research (AR) is therefore a suitable applied research methodology, which is used appropriately can help to provide for feedback, evaluation, reflection, and ultimate improvement in a continuous fashion. AR can also support educational strategies such as ‘teaching-the-teachers’ scenarios and provide for needs in educational settings that are complimentary to forecast sustainable development needs. Outcomes from this research suggests that graduate student initiated AR efforts to promote HEI organizational change is an emerging field in ESD. In this paper the approach of AR is described generally but is highlighted as a central method illustrated by a number of diverse vignettes where it was applied. This research has also taken the approach that Boundary Objects and Boundary Work are required to promote action towards EESD curriculum re-development. Because this research was done by a graduate student who listened to peer needs, it is proposed that related endeavors could be carried forth in many global settings to support improvement of ESD and EESD degree programs. This calls for more detailed projects, collection of results-outcomes, and dissemination in the literature and implementation of the new, improved approaches in and throughout ESD and EESD degree programs. 1 INTRODUCTION: EESD AS PART OF A GLOBAL STRATEGIC INITIATIVE With the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) now at an end, the current call for practitioners of engineering education for sustainable development (EESD) is to scale up efforts to a global scale. The United Nations Education Scientific Cultural and Organization (UNESCO) have encouraged the EESD community to focus on five priorities to achieve in what has been labeled as the Global Action Programme (GAP). These priorities include 1) advancing policy, 2) integrating sustainability practices into education and training environments (i.e. so called whole-institution approaches), 3) increasing the capacity of educators and trainers, 4) to empower and mobilize youth, 5) to encourage local communities and municipal authorities to develop community-based ESD programmes (UNESCO 37 C/Resolution 12). This author has been on an educational journey to promote ESD that is inline with UNESCO’s strategic programs in the contexts of the communities and professional communities of practice in which he has been involved. This paper outlines the diversity of action research vignettes that have been explored and could help to inform action to refine-develop formalized degree programs. EESD’15   The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Vancouver, Canada, June 9 to 12, 2015  112-2 2 EXPLORATIVE ACTION RESEARCH AS SUPPORT FOR INTSTITUTIONAL CHANGE 2.1 In a Continuum – The History of this Research This research was undertaken upon witnessing a call from students for more sustainability-focussed curriculum and a co-call from faculty to make such programs more robust and rigorous in principle tenets of ESD-EESD (pers. com. 2010). This is also understood to mean that a deeper culture of practice and acceptance was not as strong or present when compared to other HEIs. For example, Moore (2005) captures a similar process at an HEI that appeared to be more committed to adopting formalized educational programs inline with ESD. The foundation for this undertaking is that graduate students (or most any student really) can contribute to education central to characteristics associated with ESD-EESD to promote institutional change for strong cultures of practice. This research was undertaken from a graduate perspective and what is exciting is that this type of an approach can be highly innovative. Yet, with a lack of means to support structure can also present risk in the educational setting, to community participants, or even the researcher. The following bullets illustrate a time line that detail the significant points for a what could be part of doctoral action research program that is also rigorous in hard science subjects in support of stronger EESD culture of practice at a rigorous STEM-HEI;   2009: initial enrolment at the Colorado School of Mines,  2010: Action research began (mentor - Dr. David Muñoz); prompted by student comments in an LCA focused course, Design for the Environment and decision making projects,  2010-2011: reflexive-collaborative community and CSM engineering senior design project (Jensen 2010 and Jensen 2011),  2011 - submission of initial findings to a peer review journal, marking two years to a first reasonable doctoral graduate outcome (Jensen in revision),  2012 – Career and Education Council Operating Assessment of ChE Departments, AIChE talk in San Francisco, the event marks trans-disciplinary characterization of education programs given skills that were gained (this was the desired outcome from US NSF IGERT training model),  2012 – 2013: government level internships (County, State and National), also resulting in professional certification as an Energy Manager in Training from the Association of Energy Engineers,  2014 – outreach with local manufacturing companies, involvement results in a radical change of a community stakeholders information management system,  2015 – revision of suggested deeper curriculum at an ACS Green Chemistry Education technical session, co-proposal of deeper programmatic revision, refinement over the course of two to three-year timeframe and establishes a more elaborate working educational framework,  7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, Vancouver, June 9-12, 2015, larger dissemination. This time line with real outcomes is evidence of what could be expected from students or even HEIs willing to adopt and practice the strategic UNESCO GAP and is also inline with current thoughts in ESD for HEIs (Lozano et al. 2014) and is an emerging trend (Yuan and Zuo 2013). Unique to the research that has been done is that the particular HEI that was part of this research (Colorado School of Mines - CSM) has several certificate and major programs that are offered on campus and maintains one of the few Humanitarian Engineering programs in the United States. The opportunity for customizable education inline with the mission of the University is amazing. The mission statement of CSM is as follows;  “The Colorado School of Mines shall be a specialized baccalaureate and graduate research institution with high admission standards. The Colorado School of Mines shall have a unique mission in energy, mineral, and materials science and engineering and associated engineering and science fields. The school shall be the primary institution of higher education offering energy, mineral and materials science and mineral engineering degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. (Colorado Revised Statutes, Section 23-41-105)” It has been this authors experience that the social science skills are what truly set ESD initiatives apart. It has been without equivocation that if CSM adopted a plan to move to a more formalized programs, that faculty, administration and staff would have to maximize and leverage community resources. The Board of Trustee statement found in student bulletins expands upon these principles:  112-3 “Education and research in engineering and science to solve the world's challenges related to the earth, energy and the environment  • Colorado School of Mines educates students and creates knowledge to address the needs and aspirations of the world's growing population. • Mines embraces engineering, the sciences, and associated fields related to the discovery and recovery of the Earth's resources, the conversion of resources to materials and energy, development of advanced processes and products, fundamental knowledge and technologies that support the physical and biological sciences, and the economic, social and environmental systems necessary for a sustainable global society. • Mines empowers, and holds accountable, its faculty, students, and staff to achieve excellence in its academic programs, its research, and in its application of knowledge for the development of technology.” It is apparent that per the second bullet point, that non-traditional aspects associated with mining and materials at least acknowledges biological, social sciences, and amazing enough even sustainability as important aspects of the CSM mission. 2.2 Action Research The amount of AR literature available is immense. At a most basic level participatory action research (PAR) has been used to describe social transformation at a community level (e.g. Kemmis and McTaggart, 2005) that can directly address sustainability (e.g. Greenwood and Levin, 2007). Distinctly different PAR methods include those that are emancipatory where impacted stakeholders were not previously part of decision-making processes (Reason and Bradbury 2001). Also, critical AR or community AR can be used to help to integrate entire social units such as communities.  Greenwood (2007) conveys that means to provide for “institutionalization of action research in higher education” is vastly under explored, therefore making this approach novel and highly informative especially for EESD. Terry (2010) provides for one of the few examples of a graduate course on the topic of AR but the proposed course is for education students. Terry (2010) also cites Sagor (2000) as identifying that inquiry focused on institutional improvement as AR. Acknowledging this, Sagor (2000) does provide for an overview of AR geared towards institutional improvement. This is one example of how to draw upon the method of AR to promote change. Table 1 lists literature as starting points for a more thorough review of AR in the context of HEIs and efforts to substantiate graduate degree programs in ESD and EESD. Efforts are needed, which support development-implementation sustainability curriculum and the establishment of credentials at rigorous STEM HEIs.  Table 1: Suggested Relevant References for Adapting AR Methods to HEI EESD Degree Program Development and Implementation.    Abel Barasa 2008     Levin and He 2007         Ball and Forzani 2007    Marsh 2012         Cebrián, Grace, and Humphries 2015  Moore 2005         Doplett 2010      Molnar and Mulvihill 2002     Dunphy, Griffiths, and Benn 2007  Pipere, A., Reunamo, J. and Jones, M. 2010   Feffer Balas et al. 2008    Siebenhüner, Bernd, and Arnold 2007      Heimlich 2007                  Over the course of this research, this researcher was constantly confronted with the question of what is AR, primarily by traditional reductionist scientists. In pictorial representation, Figure 1 provides a presentation of the traditional hypothesis based approach to research contrast with the dynamic change focused approach of AR as research flows. One should keep in mind that through time the circular appearance of AR becomes a spiral and hopefully a vector aimed towards a larger goal. At the bottom of the Figure 1 paradigms or elements are proposed to operationalize potential graduate degree programs in EESD. 112-4  Figure 1: Flows of Research, A - Reductionist, B - Action Research, C - Guiding Paradigm for Graduate Sustainable Development Degree Programs. In order to assess a possible EESD program some basic metrics need to be established. Table 2 is a crude suggestion that considers larger strategic and global initiatives and those relevant to the HEI student relationship. Not represented in Table 2 are metrics related to jobs or hire. These of course will be interesting and relevant considerations but some literature and agreement on the topic of sustainability vs. green washing is a still a topic that needs to be more formally addressed. Participants in the EESD’15 gathering are addressing topics such as corporate social responsibility which can be related to business-practice philosophies. Possible metrics and assessment of elements from Table 2 represent only one programmatic component, additional input for consideration could include student profiles (Terry 2010), proposed project impacts, and likelihood estimates of future impacts based on acquired skills.   Table 2: Possible EESD program Assessment Metrics in the context of UNESCO's GAP.  2.3 The Vignettes Over all, this researcher participated in several stages of exploratory AR by conducting informal interviews, looking for opportunities to innovate, means of substantial social change, and collected quantitative data when possible, in support of possibilities for customized educational programs. The stages are represented as; 1) a primary school in the Denver Colorado area, 2) a senior design course at a rigorous STEM HEI, 3) fellowship programs (e.g. NSF GK12, ICOSSE travel awards), 4) working with a community and urban GAP componentsStage Partner Product Ed. Credit Policy Sust. Ed. Ed. capacity Youth Comm. ESD1 Denver Public Schools yes yes no yes weak yes yes2 Colorado School of Mines Engineering Senior Design Program yes yes no yes strong yes yes3 Department of Energy Research Program Participation no yes no yes moderate no no4 Community and Social Setting ‐ Urban Garden no no yes no moderate yes yes5 Applied Setting in the Community ‐ BEM no yes no no moderate no yes6 HEI Sutainability Committee no no yes no n/a no yes A BC 112-5 garden based non-profit, 5) internship with Department of Energy Lab and applying technology in a community setting, 6) a HEI’s Sustainability Committee. Each vignette’s AR spiral demonstrates how the elements of AR were part and parcel with the goal of evaluating many possibly settings for an overarching research program. It is proposed that with the further development of AR approaches and links to international partnerships, that a formalized program would achieve higher levels of GAP goals that include policy and extra-community capacity building. Highlights from the separate vignettes include that the student was constantly involved in proposing new ideas and solving problems, often in a rapid fashion. Secondly, the diversity in teaching settings was vast and involved working with actors at many organizational levels which was assumed to have greatly improved communication skills (suggesting the need for pre and post program assessments).  One of most critical aspects found to make this research possible was being able to work with a community in a relatively open fashion. However, on occasion, without a formal means to preserve outcomes the collaborative nature of outreach has the potential to be volatile (e.g. when change in management occurs) and therefore EESD graduate degree programs should not be thought of as traditional graduate education. This thought can also be complicated when philosophies of sustainability (e.g. Moore 2005) conflict with business as usual and typically capitalist’s philosophies. If ‘making things’ is not a focus of a student and instead efforts support aspects of community (e.g. social programs) it is suggested that workable solutions need to be better integrated so that respective interests can be preserved. In particular, seeking out an appropriate committee member that could provide for support in social science topics could be a challenge. The researcher found crossing institutional boundaries to be problematic and one example of a barrier to EESD program development. In the future some of these barriers will be further explored. It is proposed that an initial outline for developing appropriate partnerships should be a next step in formalizing programmatic elements and data that has been collected. Also, structure needs to be established to collect data on educational outcomes, to identify appropriate student project research and in order to better store information in manageable and meaningful pieces. Preliminary reviews and conversations with academic Deans have been initiated to better identify evaluation methods. One source of input for affective skill assessment could be related to areas of professional development (i.e. professional engineering licensure) programs. Table 2 highlights crude inputs for each of the stages. Resulting outcomes from the vignettes are outlined in Table 2. 3 CONCLUSIONS Since the original goal was to evaluate how to incorporate appropriate EESD into higher education, it was concluded that graduate students could readily be a part of transformative efforts with significant collaborative and community outreach based project work-research. AR is a broad approach that can be applied to achieve this goal. Because of the call from faculty for robust and rigorous approaches, the initial course on Sustainable Engineering Design is only a single course that makes use of LCA, but there is a deeper need for holistic and systems level courses in the hard sciences at rigorous STEM HEIs. Several community and cooperative efforts with local universities (e.g. a local community college) provide settings for soft skill development yet these settings are proposed to still be strongly linked to education and are far removed from policy areas or grass root social issues. However, it was concluded that links to government internship programs are a real possibility, which strongly support UNESCO’s GAP strategic goals. In the future, it is proposed that some of the highly cited sustainability related career fields and United States HEIs with known ESD programs should be evaluated in a more detailed meta-analysis for cross comparison of programmatic elements, outcomes, development of logic models, and big data like approaches that can be used to analyze program elements. Table 4 contains Universities and career fields that could be used as base elements in such a meta-analysis.     Table 3: Details of AR Stages as Represented by Flow in Figure 1B. 112-6  112-7 Table 4: Basis for Meta-Analysis of EESD Elements in the United States.  Acknowledgements The author would like to thank the organization staff of the 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, Dr. David Muñoz, the Front Range community and the Commercial - Government organizations that made this research possible. Additional thanks to Dr. Don Huisingh for review and the collegial environment of the Journal of Cleaner Production that continues to push my boundaries. Finally, significant portions of this research were made possible via NSF grants - #1048263 & #DUE-0630888, GK12 #’s; 0231611 & 0638719. References Atiti, A.B. 2008. Critical action research: exploring organisational learning and sustainability in a kenyan context. PhD Dissertation, Macquarie University, Australia.  Ball, D.L. and Forzani, F.M. 2007. Wallace foundation distinguished lecture: What    makes education research “educational”? Educational Researcher, 36(9): 529– 540.  Cebrián, Gisela, Marcus Grace, and Debra Humphris. 2015. An Action Research Project for Embedding Education for Sustainable Development in a University Curriculum: Processes and Prospects. Integrative Approaches to Sustainable Development at University Level. Springer International Publishing, 707-720.  Doppelt, B. 2010, Leading Change toward Sustainability, 2nd ed., Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK.  Dunphy, D., Griffiths, A. and Benn, S. 2007, Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability, 2nd ed., Routledge, London, UK.  Ferrer-Balas, D., et al. 2008. "An international comparative analysis of sustainability transformation across seven universities." International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 9(3): 295-316.  Gayford, C. 2003. Participatory Methods and Reflective Practice Applied to Research in Education for Sustainability. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 8(1): 129-142.  Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development as follow-up to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development after 2014 (UNESCO 37 C/Resolution 12)  UNITED STATES UNIVERSITIES WITH NOTED SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMSPortland State University EmoryU. of Georgia Cal State ChicoU. Wisconsin DickinsonU. Vermont Appalachin StateU. San Diego Arizona StateCornell U. New HampshireU. of New Hampshire Middlebury CollegeAppalachin State UniversityROLES FOR SUSTAINABILITY PRACTITIONERSUrban Growers Sustainability Consultants Chief Sustainability OfficersWater Quality Technicians Environmental Scientists Natural Science ManagersClean Car Engineers Environmental Engineers Gen. Operations MangersRecyclers Campus Sustainability Director ‐ Manager Chemical EngineersNature Scientists Corporate Social Responsibility Atmospheric ScientistsGreen Builders Green Building Professionals Industrial Production ManagersSolar Cell Technicians Water Engineer Scientists Environmental EngineersGreen Design Professionals Agriculutural Scientists Civil EngineersWave Energy Producers Biofuels Jobs Health & Safety EngineersWind Energy Workers Campus Sustainability Cord./Directors Industrial Engineers112-8 Greenwood, Davydd J. 2007. Teaching/learning action research requires fundamental reforms in public higher education." Action Research 5(3): 249-264.  Heimlich, J.E. 2007. Research Trends in the United States EE to ESD. Journal of education for sustainable development 1(2): 219-227.  Jansen, L., 2003. “The challenge of sustainable development”, J. Clean. Prod. 11(3): 2231-2245.  Jensen, C.D., 2010. Sustainable Design Project: Innovating Urban Green School Outreach and Life Cycle Analysis. Division of Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, USA.  Jensen, C.D., NSF GK-12 Fellow, July 22nd, 2011. Presentation: Extending “What is Energy?” to Middle  School, Colorado School of Mines, Golden CO, USA.  Jensen CD. 2015. Graduate Student Action Research to Support Development of Engineering for Sustainable Development Degree Programs. Part I: Education Development in the context of the UNESCO Global Action Programme-GAP, Journal of Cleaner Production, (in revision).   Levin, B.B., and He Y., 2008. Investigating the content and sources of preservice teachers’ personal practical theories (PPTs). Journal of Teacher Education, 59(1): 55-68.  Lozano, R., et al. 2013. Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48: 3-9.  Marsh, D.F. 2012. Twenty-First Century Learning: Embracing the Call for Change." Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 78(4) 7-11.  Molnar, E. and Mulvihill, P. 2002, “Sustainability focused organizational learning: recent experiences and new challenges”, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 46(2): 167-76.  Moore, J. 2005. Seven recommendations for creating sustainability education at the university level: A guide for change agents." International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 6(4): 326-339.  Muñoz, David, Class Discussion. Sustainable Engineering Design. Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO Fall Semester 2010.  Pipere, A., Reunamo, J. and Jones, M. 2010. Perceptions of research in education for sustainable  development: An international perspective." Discourse and Communication for Sustainable Education 1(2): 5-24.  Reason, P., and Bradbury, H. 2001. Introduction: Inquiry and participation, in search of a world worthy of human aspiration. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research: Participatory inquiry and practice. Sage Publishing, London, UK.  Sagor, R. 2000. Guiding School Improvement with Action Research. Alexandria, VA: Association for    Supervision and Curriculum Development.  Siebenhüner, B., and Marlen A. 2007. Organizational learning to manage sustainable development." Business strategy and the environment 16(5): 339-353.  Terry, K. 2010. Building Educational Leadership Capacity through a Graduate Action Research Course. Online Submission, na.  Yuan, X., and Zuo, J. 2013. A critical assessment of the Higher Education For Sustainable Development from students' perspectives–a Chinese study. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48: 108-115. 


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