Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore the rationale for teaching sustainability and engineering ethics within a decision‐making paradigm, and critically appraise ways of achieving related learning outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents the experience of the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney in teaching environmental sustainability and engineering ethics to third‐year undergraduate students. It discusses the objectives of the course and the merits and drawbacks of incorporating ethics and sustainability in the same teaching framework. In addition, it evaluates ways of incorporating theoretical and applied perspectives on sustainability. Findings – Ethics and sustainability overlap but do not coincide; incorporating them in the same engineering course can be effective, provided that points of linkage are clearly recognized in the syllabus, a suitable combination of theory and practical applications is drawn upon and adequate teaching methods, including decision‐making case problems, are used. Research limitations/implications – While environmental sustainability, economic rationality and ethical reasoning can be easily fitted into the syllabus, social sustainability is more difficult to teach because it requires a significant conceptual departure from deep‐seated preconceptions on the part of students and teachers, and does not lend itself easily to conventional classroom activity, such as lectures and weekly workshops. Further research on effective ways of incorporating social sustainability in engineering curricula is therefore needed. Originality/value – The paper evaluates sustainability issues within the context of civil engineering education.
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 11, 2008
Keywords: Civil engineering; Ethics; Sustainable development; Decision making
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