fredag 18 januari 2013

Engineers of the future

Not only did I and Elina hand in a submission to the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) conference (see the previous blog post), but Josefin, Mattias, me and Örjan also handed in a second submission to that conference called "Engineers of the future: using scenarios methods in sustainable development education". My co-authors are all from the Department of Environmental Strategies Research at KTH and I have never written anything together with any of them before. Here is the abstract:


Engineers of the future: using scenarios methods in sustainable development education
Wangel, J., Höjer, M., Pargman, D., Svane, Ö.

Scenario methods are used and taught in a variety of courses related to sustainable development by teachers at KTH, The Royal Institute of Technology. In this paper we present examples of a number of such courses. From these examples we draw conclusions regarding for what kind of learning outcomes and in which courses we find scenario building to be a useful tool for learning about sustainable development. We also elaborate on further potential uses of such methods in university pedagogy.

Sustainable development is fundamentally about the future, both in the sense of exploring how a sustainable future might look like and in the sense of understanding how present actions (be it decision making, product development or urban planning) relate to that future. Sustainable development is also characterized by complexity and ambiguity. Thus, in order to be able to understand, critically reflect upon and put sustainable development into practice engineering students need to learn how to identify and manage the tension between short and long term perspectives, complexity, and the inherently normative character of sustainability. Through their explorative and integrative character scenario methods provide a fruitful set of tools to this end. Scenarios can be created in numerous ways. However, they all share a common property in elaborating one or more images of the future. While the process of developing scenarios is a fruitful way of exploring and testing dependencies and inter-dependencies in a holistic way, the resulting images of the future can also be used as a basis for further analysis and discussion, for example highlighting goal conflicts and the normative and transformative characteristics of sustainable development. Thus, scenario approaches can positively contribute in a number of educational situations, opening up for discussion on difficult questions that otherwise risk not being addressed.

The examples presented and discussed in the paper include 3rd through 5th year courses from engineering education in media technology, urban planning and industrial design. Based on our experiences from these courses, we identify some key challenges that need to be addressed as well as the positive outcomes of using scenario approaches as pedagogy when teaching sustainable development in higher education.

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