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An Investigation into Increasing the Extent of Energy Efficiency Education in Engineering - An Application of the Community Based Social Marketing method

DOWNLOAD: Summary of Investigation Report

Executive Summary

This report responds to an identified engineering education gap in Australia, by investigating options to increase energy efficiency content for both undergraduate and postgraduate engineers. Specifically, the research focused on barriers and benefits at the level of the lecturer responsible for curriculum coordination, in a given engineering department. The following pages detail the investigative approach and subsequent findings of the multi-stage methodology funded by the National Framework for Energy Efficiency (2008-2009).

In summary, the shortlisted curriculum renewal options comprised:

1. Including a case study on energy efficiency

2. Including a guest lecturer to teach a sub-topic

3. Offering supervised research topics on energy efficiency themes

4. Offering energy efficiency as a topic in a problem-based learning course

5. Including assessment that aligns with the energy efficiency theme within the course

6. Including tutorials that align with the energy efficiency theme in the course

7. Overhauling the course to embed energy efficiency

8. Including one workshop on energy efficiency in the course

9. Including a field trip related to energy efficiency

10. Developing a new course on energy efficiency

Research into these options uncovered a wide range of barriers and benefits facing lecturers considering curriculum renewal for energy efficiency, where the most common barriers (highlighted for 4 or more of the above options) included: lack of available data/ information; lack of knowledge; lack of time for preparation; an overcrowded curriculum; and prohibitive cost. The most common benefits (highlighted for 4 or more of the above options) included: improved marketability; improved pedagogy - problem based learning; and improved pedagogy – generic skills.

Despite the lack of literature and scarcity of precedents on tools and strategies to encourage curriculum renewal through reducing such barriers and increasing such benefits, a number of strategic components were highlighted in the literature, which could be of use to engineering departments considering how to increase the extent of energy efficiency within their programs.

These include:
– Including in desired graduate attribute list
– Committing senior management support
– Recruiting staff with expertise
– Providing training
– Hosting topical event/s
– Understanding ‘Hot Topic’ areas
– Providing access to web-based courses
– Fostering interdisciplinary networks
– Providing financial assistance
– Creating a Working Party
– Setting future targets
– Creating a clear timeline
– Permitting workload discussions
– Providing seed funds for new research
– Providing seed funds for teaching research
– Harnessing other institutional overhauls
– Identifying and using modular content
– Investigating graduate employment options
– Directly involving potential employers
– Engaging external support for advice

In addition to opportunities at the level of the lecturer and engineering department, the authors also identified key roles for accreditation agencies, professional bodies and government, which could help to catalyse timely curriculum renewal. In particular the literature identified a role for accreditation bodies to include energy efficiency within accreditation requirements. The literature also identified a key role for professional bodies in providing content development and professional development support for educators. Finally the role of government was highlighted as essential in providing clear signals on the key role of energy efficiency in all major infrastructure and service provision across society, and to support capacity building initiatives put forward by engineering departments, accreditation agencies and professional bodies.