Challenging practice traditions to embed education for sustainable development within the engineering curriculum

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Trad, Sloan
Goldsmith, Rosalie
Hadgraft, Roger
Gardner, Anne
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University College Cork
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There has never been a more pressing time than now for Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD). However, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) remains invisible in most Australian engineering curricula. A common narrative from engineering academics is that ESD is covered by someone else, elsewhere in the curriculum. A similar narrative prevails among 20 interviewed engineers working on an infrastructure project in regional Australia - it’s someone else’s responsibility. This paper builds on the authors’ previous work, which identified a striking resemblance between engineering perceptions of sustainability in an Australian university and on an infrastructure project. The Theory of Practice Architectures (TPA) is used as a conceptual framework to examine the sayings, doings and relatings of 20 engineers and 10 engineering academics interviewed as part of this study. The study found that practice traditions, including masculinity, hierarchical workplaces, and an emphasis on technical competence, constrain sustainability integration in engineering curriculum and in engineering practice. These practice traditions also enable the continuation of narrowly defined engineering work practices, which resist the incorporation of a more holistic approach. Changing practice traditions is not an easy task; however, it is a necessary first step to incorporating ESD within the engineering curriculum.
Engineering education , EESD , Sustainable development , Theory of Practice Architectures (TPA)
Trad, S., Goldsmith, R., Hadgraft, R. and Gardner A. (2021) ‘Challenging practice traditions to embed education for sustainable development within the engineering curriculum’, EESD2021: Proceedings of the 10th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference, 'Building Flourishing Communities', University College Cork, Ireland, 14-16 June.