Introducing complexity and uncertainty of environmental models in the education of future engineers

Luca Vezzaro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Environmental models are affected by significant sources of uncertainties com-pared to other engineering fields. However, traditional courses tend to provide a deterministic perspective, where the various sources of uncertainty (e.g. model structure, input data, implementation) are often neglected. This issue was high-lighted during a university teachers’ training programme, where the trainee proposed a solution that aimed to improve student understanding of uncer-tainty sources. The proposed solution was implemented in an existing MSc course (with 90 students). The course, originally based on problem-solving group work, was revised by introducing an assignment inspired by Problem-Based Learning, which can be used to introduce engineering students to com-plex issues. The new assignment introduced the students to new uncertainty sources (model structural and technical uncertainty) that are essential in the development and application of environmental models. The effects of the new approach on the students’ learning were monitored by using course evaluation questionnaires and written feedback from the students. The open-ended as-signment challenged the common habits of the students, highlighting the sub-jectivity in model applications and result interpretation. The students’ response was mixed, with major concerns linked to the high workload, which limited the time for deep reflection. Nevertheless, the learning objectives were successfully achieved, providing future environmental engineers with better understanding of the complexity of environmental modelling.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDansk Universitetspædagogisk Tidsskrift
Volume13
Issue number25
Pages (from-to)194-210
ISSN1901-5089
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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