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Continuing professional education in engineering faculties: Transversal integration of sustainable human development in basic engineering sciences courses

Pérez-Foguet, Agustí, Lazzarini, Boris
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.218 pp. 772-781
case studies, engineering, focus groups, higher education, interviews, professional development, students, sustainable development, universities
The integration of sustainable development in higher education is increasingly recognised as a priority for a growing number of universities. Nonetheless, numerous barriers for change remain and particular attention should be given to the success factors fostering an effective integration. The present contribution analyses the extent to which a professional development programme, aimed at engaging and empowering faculty, has positive effects at integrating sustainable human development principles into existing courses of engineering; specifically, in new teaching modules in a subject of basic engineering science, implemented in regular courses of the first year of an engineering degree programme. The methodology includes: i) a focus group conducted with the students of the engineering courses involved in the initiative; and ii) two in-depth interviews conducted with the academic coordinator of the subject analysed. The results of the present case study highlight the relevance of professional development programmes addressed to academics in terms of students’ positive perception of the teaching innovation proposal and the empowerment of the academics involved in the training. The findings also suggest that specific university cultures and values, as well as barriers and resistance of academics to innovative processes, may contribute to frustrating the efforts of motivated professors. The conclusions emphasise the potential of continuous professional development initiatives addressed to small groups of professors, especially if reinforced with appropriate incentives and active institutional support.