chapter  10
20 Pages

Teaching Sustainability and Professional Ethics: Production and Values In and Outside the Work Place

In this chapter, I report on a single case study as participant observer of a relatively

distinctive undergraduate course that I have taught for eight semesters. The course

is organized around aspects of sustainable development and primarily oriented

to teach technical students, mostly computer science (CS) majors, although the

course is open to all students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML).

The course structure and content have been shaped by both the initial

considerations that motivated and facilitated the course offering and the experi-

ence of student/teacher interactions over the last four years. In addition to both

spontaneous and structured feedback on assigned material, the course emphasizes

class participation in the seminar-teaching style and the value of participation by

communities and affected groups in the process of setting goals and implementing

programs to achieve sustainable development. Students in the first courses began

requesting specific topics for inclusion, and this process was formally included as

an opportunity for student/teacher negotiations over course topics to be covered in

the last six classes. Introducing unanticipated final topics during the semester

was a challenge for instruction both in terms of the intellectual background of

the teacher and the time demand of researching topics and developing lesson

plans during the busiest part of the academic season. However, the pedagogical

payoff was the experience of empowering students to significantly define at least

a small part of their own educational experience, and it also provided a labor-

atory (without controls) for an initial assessment of several influences on the

negotiations. Specifically, the influencing factors include prior coursework; the

interests students brought to the course, and the dramatic events that occurred

during this period, particularly September 11 and the Iraq war and its aftermath.

The topicality of major national and international issues defined student interest

more than limited perceptions of the immediacy of any local application of the

lessons learned from studying the challenges facing the attainment of sustainable