Using Project EDDIE modules in Sustainable Cities

Michael Strong, Glendale Community College (AZ)

About this Course

Sustainable Cities

Lecture Course

Introductory Undergraduate

Majors and Non-Majors

students in the course

EDDIE Module(s) Adopted and/or Adapted

Sustainability Metrics module

My course is an introduction to urban sustainability for lower-division undergraduates. My course explores what it means to be sustainable and the complexity that can arise in how we measure and evaluate that. Over the past few years, I've been slowly integrating data sets and empirical research into the curriculum so students can practice dealing with real-world applications of concepts. A key goal of mine is to strengthen students' quantitative skills and comfort working with and interpreting data.

Jump to: Course Context | Teaching Details | How It Went | Future Use

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

The class contains eight learning modules that can be implemented in a variety of instructional formats. These modules are: (1) sustainability definitions; (2) sustainability metrics; (3) evolution of cities; (4) urban planning and form; (5) urban sprawl and compact design; (6) environmental management; (7) meeting citizen needs (housing, education, public spaces); and (8) transportation. The adaptation occurred as part of the learning in Module 2 (Sustainability Metrics). The Gapminder tool referenced in the PE is a national-scale database while my course is set at the urban scale. Therefore, I supplemented this with the two existing assignments that I had originally used to teach measuring sustainability but revised to incorporate the IPAT Framework into the design. Students had background readings and videos on data and also applied learning from the course's first module.

Teaching Details

To use the Project Eddie (PE) materials in conjunction with the existing resources, I had to make significant adaptations. I collapsed the three activities in the PE into a single activity (see Activity 1 below). From the PE, I selected the most relevant questions that students would need to understand the nuance of the IPAT Framework. I supplemented this with the two existing assignments that I had originally used to teach measuring sustainability but revised to incorporate the IPAT Framework into the design (see Activity 2 and 3 below).

Please note: I have only included resources for Activity 1 as this represents the adapted material using the PE materials. I describe the other two activities below for context and list the learning outcomes so other instructors can see how I followed up the learning associated with the adapted materials.

Activity 1 – The IPAT Framework
This assessment evaluates the student's understanding of the IPAT framework using the Gapminder tool. I have collapsed the module's three activities into an exercise with nine questions. The questions are primarily open-ended and require the student to analyze the variables displayed using Gapminder. I have six questions that assess the variables used in the existing module. I have three further questions that ask students to explore the database to determine alternatives (again, a combination of existing questions) and then follow the same analytical process for their self-selected variables.

Linked learning outcomes:
Describe the structure of the IPAT Framework
Link quantitative variables to the components of IPAT
Select appropriate variables to quantify the components of IPAT
Analyze the relationship between two variables using a scatter plot
Discuss how to adjust the scatter plot to incorporate more than two variables

Activity 2 – IPAT vs. Urban Sustainability Indices (not included)
This assessment applies an understanding of the IPAT framework to other urban sustainability indicators. Students apply previous learning on the three pillars of sustainability (environment, economy, equity) to a suite of indicators described by Huang et al. (2015). They identify which of the indicators measure the different pillars. They perform the same analysis for the IPAT Framework. To assess IPAT's capacity to measure sustainability at the urban scale, students construct variables that might measure sustainability in a city and link them to the IPAT components just as they did in the first activity using national scale data. Variables might include things like median household income, monthly household water consumption, and miles driven per year per household member. Instructors might generate a list of indicators or ask their students to generate their own list.

Citation: Huang, L., Wu, J., and Yan, L. 2015. Defining and measuring urban sustainability: A review of indicators. Landscape Ecology 30: 1175-1193.

Linked learning outcomes:
State the three pillars of sustainability
Interpret the indicator pyramid
Describe how to construct an indicator of sustainability
Assess the ability for an indicator to measure the three pillars of sustainability
Compare and contrast the indicators described by Huang et al. (2015) with the IPAT Framework

Activity 3 – Design a Survey Questionnaire (not included)
This assessment reinforces students' understanding of data types and measurement levels acquired as learning in the past course module. Students select an area of urban sustainability (e.g. water management, energy efficiency, transportation) and design a questionnaire for use in an urban survey of neighborhood residents. They write ten questions that demonstrate their knowledge of how surveys use qualitative and quantitative data; the four levels of variable measurement; open-ended, semi-structured, and unstructured question types; and preference-style (i.e. Likert scale) questions. Students write a reflective paragraph that explains how (or even if) their survey reflects the IPAT Framework, including a commentary on the usefulness of IPAT in designing urban sustainability surveys.

Linked learning outcomes:
Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data
Select an appropriate measurement level for a variable
Discuss the limitations of a variable constructed using a Likert scale
Discuss the limitations of different question options, e.g. open-ended questions versus questions with explicit answer options
Build a questionnaire that measures the sustainability of an urban activity


Adaption Materials

Student Handout (Acrobat (PDF) 107kB Jul27 23)

Instructor Answer Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 118kB Jul27 23)

How did the activity go?

Initial adaptation took several hours to complete as there was a significant gap between the geographic scale of the module and the geographic scale of my course. This is why I collapsed the three PE activities into a single assessment and then supplemented it with the activities I had already used for my course. I believe this adaptation works but would be better if the introduction to IPAT included data measuring sustainability at the urban scale. This would allow students to move back and forth between different scales in addition to considering the effects of different variables. Unfortunately, no such database exists to my knowledge.

In reviewing outcomes on the three assessments linked to this module, students appeared to have understood the basic structure of the IPAT Framework and how to differentiate variables into the various categories based upon what they measured. They were also able to identify variables at the urban scale that would reasonably correlate with the IPAT Framework. When using Gapminder, students had no issues creating the graphs and assessing the relationship between the variables graphed on the x- and y-axes. However, the additional layering of both color and size with respect to the data points caused some confusion for students. Many struggled with integrating the effects of population size and income on the variables used to visualize environmental impact and technology. Students had little difficulty on the other two assignments.

Future Use

This instructor story and adaption materials were developed during a Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network in partnership with QUBES in the spring of 2023.

Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network logo

I would use this activity again, but I would include it only in iterations of the course that I teach in a face-to-face format. My first time implementing the materials was in an asynchronous online course. This made it difficult to assess if students really understood the nuance of the data visualized using Gapminder. I could not ask probing and clarifying questions to follow-up on the questions included in the assessment. I also had students complete the activities independently, but I believe they would work much better as active-learning exercises (with much less prompting) in small groups during class. I would ask students to respond to questions not just with verbal assessments of the relationships but also with quantitative data demonstrating they understood the magnitude of the variations present. Of course, these comments reflect my critique of the activity I adapted from the Project Eddie module. The other two assessments used in this implementation were designed to be independent activities completed at home to demonstrate understanding of lecture topics. I would maintain that in future iterations, but I would have them bring their completed survey questionnaires to class and critique each other in small groups.