Long-term Impact on Environmental Attitudes and Knowledge Assessed over Three Semesters of an Environmental Engineering Sequence

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Geography and Environmental Engineering

Publication Date

Spring 6-16-2019

Publication Title

American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference Proceedings, #26444

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The pedagogy employed in a three-course environmental engineering sequence is investigated to determine the efficacy of enabling long-term improvement of knowledge and attitudes toward the environment. These three courses incorporate concepts of the five grand challenges released by the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences and increase the breadth of knowledge for T-professionals. Previous studies of lengths from a few weeks to semester long courses evaluated the potential causality among various demographics and environmental knowledge and attitudes. The research presented herein contrasts and compares changes in environmental knowledge based upon a 12-question survey and changes in environmental attitude based upon a seven-question survey administered at the beginning and end of the environmental engineering sequence courses taught to over 200 students from a variety of disciplines. Survey results demonstrate that a positive increase (9.27%) in knowledge occurred from the start to the end of the first course and the elimination of statistical differences among numerous demographics such as sex and race. After 18 months of environmental education, an 8.6% increase in knowledge was retained compared to the initial knowledge where the female and non-white demographics increased the most but retained the least. Results regarding environmental attitudes suggest that a focus on learning about environmental issues decreased positive attitudes toward the environment, whereas focusing on solutions to environmental issues increased positive attitudes toward the environment. Evaluating changes or sustainment of improved environmental attitudes over three semesters demonstrates the potential for an environmental engineering education to have a multi-year impact on the values and environmental ethos of students across many disciplines.

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