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Title: Introducing environmental concerns within an undergraduate engineering curriculum: A case study of innovation in a Mexican university
Author: Rivera Martell, David F.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3520 102X
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis has explored the introduction of some environmental education and sustainable development (EESD) matters related to engineering, within an undergraduate engineering curriculum, in the setting of a Mexican university with a positive stance regarding best practice for sustainability. This study was conceived and developed on account of the position that the individual performing this research had in that setting, as part of the engineering faculty. The research design was developed considering the sparse literature available on this topic and the challenge involved in applying general educational techniques to an emerging field of knowledge that is subject to many contextual constraints. Accordingly, at the outset the research strategy focused on conducting a survey based on interviews in some Mexican and British higher education institutions, where EESD concerns were already being pioneered. The survey aimed to collect significant information that could be used later in a case study of action research on learning in the milieu where it was aspired to introduce some curricular changes. By means of a research strategy based on assumed collaboration from the different tiers of academic staff in the setting under consideration, a case study of action research on learning was implemented. The use of a model where the researcher performed the function of lecturer was widely applied at some stages during the action research process. In the course of the case study three elements of innovation were undertaken:the implementation of an innovative course for freshmen incorporating some EESD ideas, the carrying out of a voluntary 'in-service' staff development programme, and the attempts for conducting research on engineering-related environmental issues by some students. Relevant information was collected from these three elements, mainly through questionnaires and participant observation. The following points emerged from the study: The innovative course for freshmen bringing together EESD and engineering issues was put into practice and enhanced through a four-cycles-process of implementation, evaluation and change. This process enabled the involvement of a new faculty during the last cycle. This part of the innovation was secured and only requires regular upgrading as other curriculum courses. The implementation of the in-service staff development programme enabled the identification of some potential faculty-members interested in expanding EESD within other parts of the curriculum. This task however revealed some difficulties entailed in involving faculty in this type educational innovation. The attempts for conducting research on engineering-related EESD issues exposed the length of time and contextual constraints involved in implementing this educational technique notwithstanding its recognized value. Reflection of the outcomes suggests a steady but moderate progress in this area. The advancement of this educational venture calls for skills relating to, interest in, and commitment to EESD by faculty. It is suggested that the acquisition of these features by the academic staff, is a long-term undertaking and entails the contribution of various resources of diverse nature. The implementation and sustaining of an innovation of this kind depends not only on the institution's interest to initiate this type of education. Success in this venture relies significantly upon some contextual factors such as the support provided to the innovator, the status of the innovator within the academic community, and the competing interests in the milieu. Therefore, the EESD tasks implemented are vulnerable to quietly fade away in the day-to-day activities if they are not secured, and call for constant back up and upgrading. This thesis enabled the development of an understanding of the process of change within the setting where the innovation took place. It is suggested that prospects for this type of innovation to pervade through considerable parts of the curriculum are highly conditional upon the flexibility of the social structures prevailing in the institution and the insights gained from a continuing research process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Innovation