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An ecofeminist grounded analysis of sustainability in engineering education : skill set, discipline, and value
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by R Rao, A Pawley, S Hoffmann, M Cardella, Matthew OhlandMatthew Ohland
Sustainable engineering has been highlighted in many national reports as a key component of the education of engineers of the future. Yet faculty perceptions of sustainable engineering as ‘soft’ and outside the boundaries of engineering prevent its widespread inclusion in the engineering undergraduate curriculum. In this paper, we demonstrate how ecofeminist theory could be used to understand the inferior status that sustainable engineering currently occupies in the disciplinary hierarchy. To characterize the ongoing debates and tensions underlying acceptance of sustainability as part of the engineering process as well as of engineering education, we have closely analyzed 42 out of 150 articles published in the area of engineering education using inductive grounded theory, and we relate our themes and sub-themes to ecofeminist theory. The ﬁrst theme considers sustainability to be a challenging skill set for the future engineer; the second emphasizes the disciplinary aspects of sustainability; and the third theme looks at the normative aspect of sustainability as value-based engineering.We found it helpful to use ecofeminism as a framework for thinking how sustainability’s marginalization in engineering education could be related to its ‘soft’ness, its chaotic and system-level character, as these aspects align it not with the core of engineering but rather with the marginalized ‘feminine.’ This framing should help us reconceptualize how we talk about sustainability in engineering education to make it a more integrated and valued concept for future engineering students.