Teaching Engineering Students about Cognitive Barriers during Design for Sustainable Infrastructure

Virginia Tech

Publication Release Date: Nov. 15, 2017
Date Posted: April 11, 2018
Submitted by: Rachel Young
Sustainability Topic: Curriculum
Content Type: Publications
Discipline: Engineering
Type: Graduate Student Research


Sustainability is a complex socio-technical challenge that requires new ways of thinking. To help meet this challenge, I have created three case-based modules that teach engineering students how to apply sustainability principles and help them recognize potential cognitive traps, or barriers, that may prevent more consideration for sustainability during design. Each of my three case studies is built into a PowerPoint-guided module for undergraduate engineering classes, which may be taught in 1-3 class days. I have implemented each of the three modules in senior-level classes at Virginia Tech, assessed survey data, and scored student assignments. This work and the underlying literature background is reflected in three journal papers, one for each module. My case study modules, along with all associated teaching materials, are shared in the Center for Sustainable Engineering repository for other instructors to adapt and use.