Sustainable development for engineers through a thematic restructuring of experiential learning Winkelman, Paul M.; Penner, Jason; Beittoei, Ara
Complex engineering projects often require interdisciplinary approaches and the ability to understand and navigate professional, cultural, social, and political contexts in order to find sustainable solutions. Piloted in 2011, the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia offers APSC 461 and 462, Global Engineering Leadership, to better prepare graduates for a broader scope of engineering practice. The courses emphasize four key themes: leadership, ethical community engagement, participatory planning and understanding differences. These four themes provide a strong framework for student learning as they are intended to problematize the technical mindset of traditional engineering practice (e.g. linear and hierarchical thinking; a western, scientific worldview). In APSC 461, drawing on a pedagogy of Community-based Experiential Learning (CBEL), the four themes are explored through a series of talks (guest speakers, instructor), student-led discussions and workshops, and collaboration on a community project proposed by a local organization. Students further engage in the concepts through written reading responses and reflections. The preparation provided by the four themes becomes even more important for those who continue in the international service learning course module of APSC 462. This practicum is hosted by an agro-ecology centre in a rural community in Mexico. Anecdotal evidence suggests these themes support critical reflection and student preparedness to work with community partners. More formalized studies are required to properly assess the impact which will, in turn, inform future development of the courses.
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