As educators seek to incorporate sustainability into engineering courses, appropriate assessment tools are needed to capture the impacts on student development. In particular, methods for assessing student sustainable design skills are lacking in the literature. As a result, we have been engaged in a multi-stage process to develop and validate a sustainable design rubric to both scaffold student application of sustainable design principles, as well as provide a tool to capture students’ sustainable design skills. Adapting Benson’s Model for construct validation, the first (substantive) stage included producing a set of cross-disciplinary sustainable design principles through review of literature, published rating systems, and reflections from professionals. Currently, we are engaged in the structural and external stages to complete validation of the Sustainable Design Rubric. In particular, we are piloting application of the rubric as a formative design tool in capstone design courses at various institutions to compare intercorrelations between rubric items and expected performance differences between groups.
This paper reports the outcomes of using the Sustainable Design Rubric as a formative assessment in a civil engineering capstone design course at a regional, teaching-focused institution in the Southeast. The assignment was given to 35 students across 7 teams. First, students individually scored their projects for a subset of the criteria - teams divided up criteria amongst their members so that at least two people would score each criterion. Next, students discussed their individual responses with team members to arrive at a set of consensus scores, with written justifications, for all 14 criteria. We reviewed students’ responses for appropriateness of scores and quality written justifications as part of the structural and external phases of SD Rubric validation. We found few intercorrelations between criteria within categories (environmental, social, economic), which would traditionally raise questions about structural validity. However, that finding supports that the 14 criteria are distinct and that the Rubric does not contain unnecessary criteria, which further supports substantive validity. We found correlations between criteria from the economic category and each the environmental and social categories. This provides early evidence of external validity, as we expected these correlations across categories since economic criteria specifically ask students to reflect on the economic impacts of addressing environmental and social criteria. Overall, the Rubric seemed to help students grasp what sustainable design “is” or “should look like.”
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