A. Guerra

Aalborg University, UNESCO Chair in PBL in Engineering Education (DENMARK)
The integration of knowledge and competencies that will allow students to develop innovative and sustainable technologies for future is one of the main challenges of engineering education. An engineering education that integrates education for sustainable development (ESD) perspectives claims for a learning approach centered on students, interdisciplinary and problem oriented and this cannot be achieve through a “add on” strategy. Example of such active learning approaches are problem based learning (PBL), project based learning (PjBL), case study, role play, group discussion, field work (Sterling 2004; Bourn and Neal 2008).

However engineering education still mainly characterized as traditional, focused on the transmission of knowledge through lectures, with an overcrowded curriculum with no space to explore new learning approaches and integrate content (Shepard et. al. 2009). The learning approaches mentioned are capable of integrating education for sustainable development (ESD) in engineering education at different levels, and do not aim to substitute the core scientific and technological knowledge but instead aligned with the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the professional practice (Lambrechts et. al. 2010).
It is agreed among ESD experts that PBL it is a suitable learning approach to integrate ESD in the engineering curricula (Segalàs 2009). PBL is characterized as an enquiry process where problems – mostly from real and complex situations – are formulated and drive the whole learning process. Several variations (models) of PBL are used, however each model shares some basic learning principles: (i) cognitive (contextualize learning, participatory, critical and are based on the students’ experience); (ii) content nature (different types of knowledge are required as well as disciplinarity) and (iii) social environment (students learn through collaboration, where dialogue and communication among peers takes place) (Savin-Baden and Wilkie 2004; Kolmos et. al. 2009).

PBL approach promotes the development of competencies essential for ESD (e.g. critical thinking, participatory, problem orientated, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, creativity) (Huckle and Sterling 1996; Sterling 2004). There is a lack of studies that state which institutions in engineering education combine both, and what are the challenges and dynamics involved (Ferrer-Balas and Mulder 2005).

The paper aims to give an overview of engineering education institutions which have an explicit use of PBL and at same time integrate ESD in the curriculum. The main research question posed is: Which engineering education institutions, which explicitly make use of PBL, integrate ESD?
The methodology used was documentary analysis carried out in two phases. In phase one, reports, journals, and proceedings where analysed through content analysis to point and narrow down institutions. In phase two, the education vision and mission, and curriculum of the institutions selected from phase one were analysed though content analysis.

The outcomes from the study are mainly empirical and give an overview of the institutions make a use of PBL and integrate ESD and some insights of their discourses. For example, sustainable development is mainly visible in certain fields (e.g. civil engineering) and levels (e.g. master). PBL is not that visible as a learning approach at a university/ faculty level but more as a course or module level.