Title page for ETD etd-05092008-110413


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Richter, David M.
Author's Email Address richterd@vt.edu, richterd99@gmail.com
URN etd-05092008-110413
Title A Case Study of Pedagogy in an Interdisciplinary Green Engineering Course
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paretti, Marie C. Committee Co-Chair
Reinholtz, Charles F. Committee Co-Chair
Borrego, Maura Jenkins Committee Member
Keywords
  • pedagogy
  • green engineering
  • interdisciplinary
Date of Defense 2008-04-28
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
This study investigates pedagogical challenges posed by interdisciplinary courses using a mixed methods case study. Current engineering education literature describes many multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary efforts – curriculum, programs, courses, and projects – but lacks concrete pedagogical strategies appropriate to such efforts.

In interdisciplinary courses, students represent a range of majors and often different academic levels. Consequently, they bring different disciplinary prior knowledge as well as different levels of understanding. This lack of common prior knowledge due to horizontal (disciplinary) and vertical (levels) integration creates unique challenges for faculty associated with both course content and instruction method.

To address these challenges, this study adopted a mixed methods approach to collect quantitative and qualitative data in an interdisciplinary Green Engineering Life Cycle Analysis course. Data included surveys, observations, and interviews. The surveys addressed students’ motivation for enrollment, prior knowledge of Green Engineering, perception of the course, reflections on course content, satisfaction, and content gains. Observations of classroom and team meeting behaviors, along with interviews of students and faculty provide complementary qualitative data.

Quantitative analysis of the content knowledge data demonstrates significant gains for eight of ten concepts. Qualitative analysis shows that students also gained awareness of different perspectives from other disciplines. Qualitative analysis also identified key challenges for faculty in interdisciplinary settings: 1) structural issues related with organizing students from different disciplines with conflicting schedules and 2) disciplinary egocentrism of students through their education and training from in-major courses. The data also suggests teaching practices that have the potential to create new interdisciplinary pedagogies.

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