Applying threshold learning theory to teach sustainable business practice in post-graduate Engineering Education
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Using Threshold Learning Concepts to teach Sustainable Business Practice in Post-Graduate Engineering EducationAt the beginning of the 21st Century, society is grappling with numerous sustainabilitychallenges related to both mitigating environmental impacts of past and currentdevelopment, and adapting future development to changes in climatic conditions, resourcescarcity, and increasing levels of consumption and population pressures. Not only are thechallenges grand in scale and complex in their interconnectedness, a number require asubstantial – it could be said transformational - shift in understanding to be able to deliversolutions that are genuinely sustainable. As governments and industry around the world seekto respond to these challenges, higher education institutions are being called on to rapidlybuild capacity amongst undergraduate and practising professionals. In particularpostgraduate education is the focus of significant attention with urgent demand forprofessionals that can practice sustainable development.However, embedding such capacity within the postgraduate curriculum is significantlychallenged by a number of factors, including the limited number of courses in a typicalgraduate program (6-8), and the scarcity of academics with expertise in sustainabledevelopment. Within this context, this paper presents the results of a qualitative action-research inquiry into how post-graduate students could develop capacity in sustainabledevelopment within a course. This particular course, ‘Sustainable Business Practice’, wastaught by the author, and comprised 120 postgraduate students from a variety of disciplinarybackgrounds. The method included identifying four ‘key’ threshold learning concepts(decoupling, whole system design, resource productivity and biomimicry), which oncelearned, would provide a pathway to having a transformational learning experience aroundthe ‘complex threshold concept’ of sustainable business practice. The paper presents detailsof the study and findings from an evaluation survey and semi-structured interviews with asubset of the students in the course. The outcomes of this study will be used to informpostgraduate curriculum renewal in other courses in the same institution, in addition toinforming a framework for rapidly embedding sustainability within the engineeringcurriculum.
ASEE 2012 119th Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings
Copyright 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the conference's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Environmental Engineering not elsewhere classified