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Integrating Sustainability into a Freshman-Engineering Course through an Institute-Level Initiative: A Teaching–Learning Model with Authentic Activity and Context

Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum

ISBN: 978-1-78769-942-7, eISBN: 978-1-78769-941-0

Publication date: 18 March 2020


In January 2016, Georgia Tech launched a campus-wide academic initiative (“Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain”) aimed at preparing undergraduate students in all majors to use their disciplinary knowledge and skills to contribute to the major societal challenge of creating sustainable communities. The initiative calls for faculty members from all six Georgia Tech colleges to develop courses and co-curricular opportunities that will help students learn about sustainability and community engagement and hone their skills by engaging in real-world projects with nonprofit, community, government, and business partners. Affiliated courses address various aspects of the Center’s sustainable communities framework, which presents sustainability as an integrated system connecting environment, economy, and society. This chapter reports on one engineering instructor’s ongoing efforts that bring sustainability into the engineering classroom through sociotechnical project-based learning. This cornerstone design course is one of more than 100 Center-affiliated courses currently offered; the full set of Center-affiliated courses enrolls over 5,000 students per year across all six colleges. The sustainability activities introduced in the freshman design course pertain particularly to the Center’s vision that all graduates of the institute, a majority of whom will graduate with engineering degrees, are able to contribute to the creation of sustainable communities and to understand the impact of their professional practice on the communities in which they work. A situated knowledge and learning pedagogical theory is used in the Center-affiliated course, where concept, activity, and context are involved in student learning to produce useable robust knowledge. The sociotechnical project-based teaching model with contextualized design problems is used to engage students throughout the course by utilizing computer-aided-design problems that incorporate sustainability within both individual and team projects. In this chapter, the authors present the pedagogical approaches to learning, strategies, and challenges for implementation and assessment of intervention activities, and data analyses of both student reflection data and pre- and post-survey data.



Pucha, R., Dosa, K., Newton, S., Alemdar, M., Yow, R. and Hirsch, J. (2020), "Integrating Sustainability into a Freshman-Engineering Course through an Institute-Level Initiative: A Teaching–Learning Model with Authentic Activity and Context", Sengupta, E., Blessinger, P. and Yamin, T.S. (Ed.) Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 125-143.



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