Emotional intelligence for sustainable engineering education: Incorporating soft skills in the capstone chemical engineering capstone design project

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Tsalaporta, Eleni
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University College Cork
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Chemical engineering students in universities across the world are involved in at least one chemical engineering design project during their studies. Traditionally, the concept of design in chemical engineering education has been associated with the design of processes, equipment and products, with extensive focus in technical knowledge, creative thinking, problem solving, common sense and efficiency. But are these skills enough for chemical engineering graduates to shine and make a difference in their careers? While engineering education focuses on the establishment of hard skills, it pays little or no attention to the soft skills that are necessary for the careers of engineering graduates. Conversely, sustainable engineering education considers soft/social skills, such as the ability to work in teams, empathy, self-motivation and self-regulation, a key element of engineering curricula. In order to maximise the potential of sustainable engineering education and prepare the students for the real work life challenges, in a team-driven learning format, as opposed to a student-centred approach, a “collaborative working strategy” (Mitchell, 2008) was introduced to the capstone design project. A personality mapping and a set of collaborating working values and behaviours were introduced as part of the project, in order to examine the extent to which emotional intelligence enhances collaborative teamwork in engineering education. More specifically, the students were asked to map their personalities and working styles in order to explore the dynamics of their team. The personality test that was used for this purpose was “The Insights Discovery, the colour personality test”, based on Carl Jung’s model for personality types. Having mapped their working style strengths and weaknesses, the teams were asked to adhere to a set of values including 1) common goal and unity of purpose, 2) team trust, 3) interdependence, 4) accountability and 5) effective feedback. These values were used as a guideline for effective communication, while the students were asked to monitor, list and reflect on the collaborative working behaviours of them and their peers, as part of their weekly tasks. The preliminary findings of this ongoing study have indicated that emotional intelligence enhances the effectiveness of project team working, providing the necessary evidence that emotional intelligence holds a dominant role in sustainable engineering education and should be part of the engineering curriculum.
Engineering education , Sustainability , Chemical engineering students , Personality mapping , Sustainable engineering education , Engineering curricula , Emotional intelligence
Tsalaporta, E. (2021) ‘Emotional intelligence for sustainable engineering education: Incorporating soft skills in the capstone chemical engineering capstone design project’, EESD2021: Proceedings of the 10th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference, 'Building Flourishing Communities', University College Cork, Ireland, 14-16 June.