Enhancing Transdisciplinary Learning through Community-Based Design Projects: Results from a Mixed Methods Study

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Lindsey Payne
Brent Jesiek


To address complex sustainability challenges, solutions are needed that integrate the biophysical and sociocultural dimensions of sustainability. Engineers designing these solutions must be technically adept problem solvers, as well as effective at integrating the non-technical dimensions of sustainability into their design solutions. This paper reports on educational interventions in both a university engineering course and engineering service-learning skill sessions. Using a mixed methods assessment approach to investigate the interventions, data were collected using a variety of instruments and analyzed using thematic analysis and appropriate statistical tests. Our findings include an increase in students’ awareness and understanding of non-technical dimensions in design, and suggest that a transdisciplinary knowledge production model may enhance students’ abilities to integrate non-technical dimensions, as well as engage with stakeholders, in community-based design projects. This study advances understanding of appropriate learning environments, teaching methods, and assessment tools for developing engineering competencies in sustainability problem solving.

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