Environmental considerations in engineering: Systemic differences between experts and novices

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Kirjavainen, Senni (1); Celik, Sine (2)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: Aalto University; 2: Delft University of Technology
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 1655-1664
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.166


Engineering knowledge forms an essential part of our planetary fight against climate change. Traditionally, engineering curricula emphasizes the importance of technical knowledge and encourages to specialize in niche areas, where engineers develop themselves into experts. However, it is important to be able to reflect on complex societal challenges from a variety of perspectives to produce not only innovative, but also long-lasting and inclusive solutions for the greater good. This paper aims to understand the extent of systems thinking abilities of engineers by differentiating experts from novices. The study traces sustainability connections made by professional engineers and master’s level engineering students when solving engineering design problems. This qualitative study highlights seven recurring themes that relate to the global sustainability discourse and describe a problem-centred approach through a real-life case that focuses on paper and pulp production, through a thematic analysis of 59 responses. The results portray system-level differences in how novice and expert engineers approach sustainability questions and how these differences shape their solution spaces.

Keywords: Sustainability, Societal consequences, Social responsibility, Systems thinking, Experts and novices

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