Evaluating the Impact of Transdisciplinary Problem-based Learning on Student Attitude to Design and the Environment

By Graham John Brewer and Thayaparan Gajendran.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is widely accepted that transdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem solving provide the best hope for humans to address the issues associated with climate change. The education of professionals in the design and construction/manufacturing sectors should ideally sensitise students to these principles, helping them to recognise the value that other professions bring to the design process, and consequently minimise the environmental impact of their designs. A course on “design and the environment” delivered at the University of Newcastle in Australia embraces these principles, delivering content to mixed cohorts that include design and technology teachers, industrial designers, architects, engineers, and construction managers. It is founded upon problem based learning principles, empowering the students to take ownership of their learning. This extends to the consequences of their designs as they are required to perform a life cycle analysis for their product/building, encouraging them to explore the vexing issues of environmental auditing. Previous evaluation of the course has qualitatively indicated its effectiveness in raising the students’ environmental awareness, and this paper confirms this using pre- and post-intervention content analysis of students’ documents to measure the effect. The analysis utilises a framework based on the New Ecological Paradigm, and yields interesting results. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for course design and the responsibility of the educator in global society.

Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Tertiary Education, Learning Contracts

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.55-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.033MB).

Assoc. Prof. Graham John Brewer

Head of Discipline: Building, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

I am the Head of Discipline of Building at the University of Newcastle in Australia, where I have input into the construction management, architecture, and education (design and technology) programmes. My research interests include ICT (benchmarking, critical success factors were used in project teams, innovation and attitude), urban sustainability (ageing in place/residential aged care, designed to disassembly, urban design and health), and teaching and learning (problem-based learning, metacognitive development and reflective practice, learning contracts, education and sustainability). I have written six books dealing with the challenges associated with the use of ICT in project teams operating in the built environment. I have received a teaching award, and have recently submitted my PhD, which is in the field of innovation adoption.

Thayaparan Gajendran

University of Newcastle, Australia

The focus of Gajendran’s research is on cultural analysis relating to technological innovations, education in the built environment and sustainability. Gajendran employs multiple methodological perspectives including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, using case study strategies, Delphi, ethnographic interviews and questionnaire surveys. His contributions, particularly from a methodological point of view, extend to constructing attitudinal, value and cultural analysis frameworks to decipher the complex underlying triggers to human Behaviour. He has published number of industry best practice guides, conferences and journals papers. Gajendran is the coordinator of construction economics, estimating and tendering and facilities management course and is the program convener for the construction management program at the University of Newcastle. He is a member of the faculty of engineering and built environment methodological peer review committee. He was the chair of the engineering and built environment human research ethics committee in 2005-2006. He is also an associate of australian institute of quantity surveyors. Prior to his appointment as an academic he worked in the industry as a quantity surveyor and project consultant for it solutions.


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