One assignment, two courses, multiple skills: A major engineering assignment with social, political and ethical dimensions

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Neal, Vivian E.
Niet, Taco
Vuong Baker, Daina
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University College Cork
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Research Projects
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This paper discusses a major interdisciplinary assignment that spans two first year courses in the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) at Simon Fraser University, Canada. The Persuasive Research Paper asks students to draw on ideas from multiple scholarly disciplines and fields of practice to argue a social, political, or ethical position in relation to a technical, engineering, or scientific topic. It is a combined assignment across two SEE courses, Energy, Society and Environment, and Process, Form and Convention in Professional Genres, and is intended to prepare students for future courses in the SEE program, their co-op placements, and their professional responsibilities as an engineer. Students are required to research and write a paper exploring opposing positions related to an area of controversy chosen from a list of topics supplied by the instructors. The assignment consists of four components, each of which involves a draft and final version, and peer reviews. Two preliminary assignments help students to plan their research, frame the position they will take on their topic, and conduct scholarly research. These prepare students for the other two components, a technical analysis and the final paper. For the peer review, students are grouped into threes and each person uses established criteria to review their group members’ papers using the ACE (Analytical, Constructive and Empowering) model of feedback. Students learn the skills of finding and using scholarly resources, and using persuasive arguments that draw on reliable sources and evidence. Also, throughout the assignment, students are practicing leadership skills, learning written and oral communication skills, and gaining a breadth of knowledge about energy, sustainability and society.
Interdisciplinary , Engineering education , Sustainability , ACE (Analytical, Constructive and Empowering) feedback model
Neal, V. E., Niet, T. and Vuong Baker, D. (2021) ‘One assignment, two courses, multiple skills: A major engineering assignment with social, political and ethical dimensions’, EESD2021: Proceedings of the 10th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference, 'Building Flourishing Communities', University College Cork, Ireland, 14-16 June.