The ‘Global Issues’ course was introduced in 2013-14 as a compulsory course for all first-year students in EPFL. The course is highly innovative. It focuses on 6 major global issues (climate, communication, energy, food, health and mobility) and looks at these issues in an interdisciplinary way, drawing on engineering and natural science perspectives and on social scientific perspectives. Each course is taught by two-person teams drawing from natural sciences and engineering on one hand, and from social and human sciences on the other. The course also requires students to engage in interdisciplinary group work.
On behalf of the course coordinators and teachers, we undertook to evaluate the impact of the course. In addition to the traditional student feedback questionnaires, the impact of the course on student learning was to be assessed. The evaluation focused on:
- changes in students’ moral reasoning
- their attitudes towards interdisciplinary group work.
Two internationally recognized psychometric tests (the Engineering and Science Issues Tests and the Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale) were translated into French and adapted for the context. These were then administered to around 1,700 students at both the beginning and the end of the course. These pre- and post-experience tests were matched and changes in student moral reasoning and attitudes towards interdisciplinary group work were identified. The results were presented to the teachers during the planning process for the 2014-15 course.
The fact that we were able to match pre- and post-experience data from over 1,000 engineering students, makes this one of the largest published studies of moral reasoning in engineering students undertaken worldwide during the last two decades.
Data from the impact evaluation has been presented at the European Society for Engineering Education Conference 2015 in Orléans and is available in the proceedings.