Reasons behind why some courses in environment and sustainable development are not appreciated by students and why some are
Paper in proceedings, 2016
Engineers are important actors in a transition towards a sustainable society. In order for engineers to gain relevant competences for such a transition, courses in environment and sustainable development must be appreciated by students. One success factor can be to motivate students with relevant topics for their specific engineering discipline. A challenge for teachers is to choose relevant topics and to keep topics up to date, for example, circular economy is a rather new concept that can be relevant for some engineering disciplines while green chemistry can be relevant for others.
Results from course evaluations show that courses in environment and sustainable development in average are not appreciated by students to the same extent as courses in general at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. As a part of course evaluations, students answer an electronic questionnaire after each course. One of the questions is “what is your overall impression of the course”, and it is possible to give a score from 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). The average results for the students’ overall impression of the 24 courses in environment and sustainable development at Chalmers in 2014/15 was 3.2, which is lower compared to the average results for all courses at Chalmers, 3.8.
In this study, we analyze reasons behind why some courses in environment and sustainable development are not appreciated by students and why some are, with the objectives to answer the questions:
• Are there any common features among the courses that get a low or high evaluation grade, respectively? And especially, how well do the students perceive that the topics of the courses are connected to their engineering disciplines?
• Which mistakes are done in the courses that get low evaluation grades, and should be avoided?
• What can we learn from the courses that get a high evaluation grade?
We have analyzed the results in the student questionnaires, and especially the free text answers, for the nine courses in environment and sustainable development that got a lower grade than 3 and the six courses that got a higher grade than 4 in 2014/15.
Some reasons for low evaluation grades are when students perceive that the topic is not relevant for their engineering discipline or that learning of relevant competences is not supported. Teachers have to be aware of this and continuously work on improving their courses in this respect.