Being bad to do good: using reverse psychology to embed Life Cycle Thinking and knowledge of Sustainable Development Goals in design and engineering curricula

Conference paper


Andrews, D, Lishman, B and Newton, E (2020). Being bad to do good: using reverse psychology to embed Life Cycle Thinking and knowledge of Sustainable Development Goals in design and engineering curricula. 2nd International Conference on Life Cycle Innovation 2020 (LCIC 2020). Berlin 26 - 28 Aug 2020
AuthorsAndrews, D, Lishman, B and Newton, E
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Designers and engineers have developed many products, systems and services that have been socially, economically and environmentally beneficial; however, they have also been initiators of and contributors to the linear economy, which has created many negative impacts and is proving unsustainable (1). Either way, the power and influence of the design and engineering professions is indisputable and therefore the role of educators as arbiters of good practice is critically important. Consequently, it is surprising that some courses still fail to include sustainability as a core subject and/or that sustainability is seen as a ‘tick box’ criterion that is ignored or forgotten once covered in an assignment.
In the latter case this could be due to: students feeling over-whelmed by the breadth of criteria they need to address in their assignments; the way in which assignment briefs are presented and marks allocated; ‘eco- fatigue’ (e.g. in response negatives such as green washing) and/or eco-anxiety. This and similar phenomena such as climate-depression are increasing among people who work in sustainability-related professions and young people who feel as though they have no control over their future or are powerless to initiate positive change (2).
It is important for educators to develop pedagogic strategies to simultaneously mitigate these issues and ensure that sustainability remains core to design and engineering courses; it is equally important to help students to deal with their negative feelings. Education for Sustainable Development involves developing positive solutions to problems. However, this paper proposes that reverse psychology (3) can be used to create enjoyable and educationally memorable experiences that highlight the need for good practice.
In simple terms, reverse psychology encourages someone to do something by suggesting that he/she does the opposite (4). This paper describes a case study where first year engineering and design students were asked to develop the most unsustainable concept and to negate as many SDGs possible in response to subjects such as food / water supply and resource consumption. Once the students realised that ‘bad was good’ in this context the level of creativity and innovation rose and the end-of-project presentations were high spirited and humorous. This controversial approach has proved successful so far and the response to subsequent assignments asking for sustainable design proposals have been of a higher standard than those from other year groups and each has included evidence of Life Cycle Thinking and intrinsic links to Sustainable Development Goals with limited prompting.

1. Andrews, D., The circular economy, design thinking and education for sustainability. Local Economy; Article first published online: March 19, 2015; Issue published: May 1, 2015 Volume: 30 issue: 3, page(s): 305-315.

2. Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica.

3. Pennebaker, J. W. and Sanders, D. Y. (1976) American graffiti: Effects of authority and reactance arousal. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2, 264-267

4. MaDonald, G., Nail, P.R and Harper, J.R. Do people use reverse psychology? An exploration of strategic self-anti-conformity. January 2011; Social Influence 6(1): 1-14
DOI: 10.1080/15534510.2010.517282

Year2020
Accepted author manuscript
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Print26 Aug 2020
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Accepted15 Apr 2020
Deposited30 Apr 2020
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