Because engineers are increasingly called upon to develop sustainable solutions, it has become imperative to adapt engineering education to equip students with the knowledge and skills to engage in sustainable design. Recognizing the potential benefits of sustainable engineering, as identified by an international community, many organizations, including ABET, the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) advocate for curricular reforms. Successful educational reform efforts require effective methods for assessing student sustainable design abilities. One approach for both stimulating student learning and facilitating assessment is the use of rubrics. Rubrics can be used by instructors to evaluate the quality of student work, but can also be used prior to assignments to help students learn about different dimensions of sustainability, establish expectations for sustainable design, and self-assess how well principles were applied to design projects.
The goal of this project is to develop and validate a sustainable design rubric that can be easily adapted and applied across engineering disciplines or for interdisciplinary problem-solving. A sustainable design rubric was previously developed based on the Nine Principles of Sustainable Engineering for application in civil and environmental engineering (CEE) courses, and was recently updated through systematic literature review to reflect a broader set of evaluation criteria. The rubric’s constructs of sustainable design and their measures are being validated in three phases consistent with the Benson model of construct validity.
This paper will focus on efforts to iteratively validate the new rubric’s content by benchmarking the criteria against well-established sustainable development and design frameworks, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, STAUNCH© (Sustainability Tool for Auditing for University Curricula in Higher-Education), and the Envision™ Infrastructure Rating System. These three frameworks contain global, program/curriculum-level, and project-level criteria applicable to engineering challenges, respectively. The iterative validation confirmed the importance of many rubric criteria, but also revealed opportunities to add or refine criteria that were not adequately represented in the rubric. In addition, iterative validation supported potential removal or consolidation of criteria that did not seem to be broadly applicable to sustainability or across disciplines. Since the sustainable design rubric is intended for undergraduate student projects, there were also categories within the frameworks deemed inappropriate for student-level projects. This paper reviews the validation process and results and presents changes to the draft rubric criteria, which will undergo further validation from an expert panel of engineering educators prior to testing on multiple student design projects.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.