A Holistic Approach to Delivering Sustainable Design Education in Civil Engineering

Chandra Vemury, Oliver Heidrich, Neil Thorpe, Tracey Crosbie

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The purpose of this paper is to present pedagogical approaches developed and implemented to
deliver sustainable design education (SDE) to second-year undergraduate students on civil engineering
programmes in the (then) School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University. In doing so,
the work presented offers an example of how to help students understand the contested and contingent nature
of sustainability.

The research presented takes an action-based approach to the
development of a teaching and assessment model centered on problem- and project-based learning in a real-
world context.

Because of the use of a design brief, which addresses a practical infrastructure problem
encountered by regional communities, the academic team were able to make arguments related to the three
pillars of sustainability more accessible to the students. This suggests that pedagogical instruments based on
problem- and project-based learning strategies are effective in delivering SDE.
Practical implications

The successful delivery of SDE requires commitment from the senior
management teams leading individual departments as well as commitments embedded in the high-level
strategies of Higher Education institutions. It was also found that some students need extra support from the
teaching staff if their engagement through SDE is to be successful. This has practical implications for the
amount of contact time built into undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

The teaching and assessment model presented in this paper addresses various
substantive and normative issues associated with SDE making it relevant and transferable to courses other
than civil engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-216
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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