Owing to its complexity, sustainable development cannot be simply integrated as a supplementary course within the engineers' curricula. The first point of this paper aims to focalise on how to reflect pedagogically. After dealing with these questions, a tool that can evaluate the student's understanding of sustainable development concepts will be presented.
The analysis of a student's sustainability comprehension, based on cognitive maps, has been developed. The students are asked to write and connect by arrows all the terms that they associate with the concept of sustainable development. The assessment of the aforementioned cognitive maps is based on an approach via semantic category.
This study shows that the students' perception of sustainable development before the training seems mainly focalised on environmental and economical aspects. After the SD course, an increase in the number of words quoted is noted for each category (social and cultural aspects; the stakeholders, the principles of sustainable development and the allusions to complexity, temporal and spatial dimensions). Their vision seems richer and wider. The training seemed useful to help the students who did not associate sustainable development with diverse dimension to improve this perception.
To reduce the length of the elaboration of the maps, there is no preliminary training for the construction of maps. To simplify this elaboration, only one type of arrows is used to connect words. To minimise the time of analysis of the maps, the relevance of the relations made between the words is not verified. Besides, the classification of words within the semantic categories implies a certain level of subjectivity.
This cognitive map method can be a useful tool to improve learning in quantitative terms but also in qualitative terms. Identifying knowledge gaps and misunderstood ideas allows the improvement in the training.
This study presents a new method that can be used to evaluate the impact of training sessions on students. Another advantage is to analyse how the students' knowledge is interconnected. This seems particularly interesting because the study of this transdisciplinary concept also necessitates an integrated vision.
Lourdel, N., Gondran, N., Laforest, V. and Brodhag, C. (2005), "Introduction of sustainable development in engineers' curricula", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 254-264. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370510607223Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited