Exploring Student Differences in Formulating Cross-Disciplinary Sustainability Problems

Robin S. Adams
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045, USA
Email: rsadams@purdue.edu

Natalie Beltz
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
E-mail: nbeltz@gmail.com

Llewellyn Mann
Swinburne University, Hawthorn, VIC 3122, Australia
E-mail: lmann@swin.edu.au

Denise Wilson
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
E-mail: denisew@u.washington.edu

Every day engineers are confronted with complex grand challenges. Grand challenges related to natural disasters represent a class of complex problems that require working across multiple disciplines and involve not just solving the immediate problem but designing long-term sustainable systems. In this paper, we present exploratory work to characterize students’ ability to formulate cross-disciplinary problems for a complex, contextualized, and cross-disciplinary disaster relief scenario. This includes a description of the study implemented in three global contexts, data collection, analysis, and results including a discussion of the utility of the scenario tool to distinguish group differences. The paper concludes with implications for research, instruction, and assessment.


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