Engineering and technological development becomes more and more globalized, interdisciplinary and intercultural. New interdisciplinary areas are established as nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc. and, at the same time, companies become more international by operating with an internationally shared knowledge as a requirement for international cooperation. Engineering education of tomorrow has to address these challenging issues and produce qualified academics to meet them. That means that engineering education has to rethink and develop teaching systems in relation to, for example, learning objectives, choice of teaching and learning methods, assessment and organisational culture.
What is considered as knowledge and skills – and especially engineering and scientific knowledge and skills are based on the historical and cultural context. The concept of ‘generation of knowledge’ opens up possibilities of research into the knowledge of different cultures and sub-cultures as well as research into knowledge as a historical phenomenon. The concept also opens up for research into the cultural and sub-cultural diversity in the understanding of learning, as well as in the historical and contextual processes in which knowledge has been negotiated.
Engineering and science education research also claims that different and innovative educational approaches better address the challenges posed by society and professional practice. Educational innovation is central both at curriculum and at institutional level, for example in advocating the comprehension and use of curriculum alignment principles. Research will aim to identify critical innovations or “the something missing” to establish effective methods for educational design and to explore strategies for implementation of such innovations.
The Aalborg Centre focuses in particular on the following areas:
Engineer’s societal roles and future skills
Throughout history, the engineer has had different roles – ranging from an artist who progressed through play, over a public servant and administrator, to a technologist who works closely together with economists, perhaps ending as an actor of change and an innovator who is a carrier of known societal and humanist values. The engineer’s role mirrors the importance that technology plays in different phases of the societal development, nonetheless it is not a matter of how the engineer acquires and develops his perception of his role but rather what is the role of the engineer today? Particularly in today’s society, there is a need for an independent engineer who is aware of his own values, is able to manage his own life and skills courses, and simultaneously to enter into collaborative relationships and participate in the development of organisations – but how does this link with technical professional competence and with ethical perspectives?
For the analysis of these issues, the research group has been working with future skills by two concepts: Bildung and skills. Bildung can be understood as involving the development of the individual into a virtuous and thereby responsible citizen, and as such, the matter of the contents of virtue and responsibility arises. In simple terms, the virtuous citizen can be understood either as the individual that contributes to reinforcing the traditional basic values of society, i.e. as responsible for carrying on tradition.
Engineering practice, learning and innovation in companies are core to this research area.
Recruitment for educations, gender and intercultural learning
The issue of cultural diversity is drawing an increase of attention in the contemporary discussion of education and learning. In the past decades, educational approaches including the PBL are increasingly ‘exported’ to other educational institutions and contexts. The mobility of students is on the rise due to general internationalisation of education; thus, students with various backgrounds meet in a multicultural educational setting creating diverse environments for teaching and learning.
In the 1980s, in a Danish context, great efforts were made to recruit women for engineering educations. The results have been long in coming – and it appears that the only way to attract women to engineering educations is by broadening the teaching contents and changing the learning culture in engineering programs. Successful examples can be observed through the practice of creating new types of education in PBL environment where more humanist and societal elements are visibly present and where student centred learning is highly valued. During the 1990s, increased recruitment of international students took place, which further challenges the existing culture at Danish engineering educations and, in particular, the intercultural understanding and communication.
What is needed to ensure a positive outcome of the learning processes of diverse groups of students with different cultural backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, education, discipline, gender, religion, etc.? Based on this question, analyses of the link between values, identity, culture, and gender are being carried out within a technical-scientific framework.
Network capacity building and motivational factors for choice of engineering education are core research projects to this area.
- Research on Engineering Education Network (REEN)
- Nordic Network on Engineering Education Research (NNEER)
- Active Learning in Engineering Education (ALE)
- European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)
- International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES)
- American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)