To improve the ability to reflect on your own research in relation to sustainable development - experiences from a course for PhD students at Chalmers University of Technology
Paper in proceeding, 2010
One of the most important student learning outcomes of education for sustainable development (ESD) is for the student to understand, or be able to find out, the most important sustainability considerations in relation to his or her own specific situation. In the spring of 2009, a short course for PhD students on the Challenges and Opportunities of Technology in Sustainable Development was offered for the first time at Chalmers University of Technology. The course is offered to all PhD students, as a semi-compulsory part of an ethics course requirement. The course centres around a writing assignment in which the student is asked to reflect on his or her own research in relation to SD. As support and input, the students participate in nine different lectures with seminar discussions, all giving different perspectives on technology and SD, interview three different persons, participate in a peer-review student seminar, and have an individual discussion with a faculty member. Assessment is performed by hand-in of the essay, compulsory presence at 80% of the lectures, and reviewing of texts of other students.
This paper explains the idea behind the course and shares experiences from giving the course twice in 2009. Learning was evaluated using concept maps, before and after the course. Furthermore, the final essay texts were analysed and results compared to results from concept maps. The course seems to have resulted in an overall improvement in the students' attitudes towards sustainable development (SD); particularly they show less focus on environmental aspects. However, the course has a greater impact on students with already existing SD awareness, here attributed to the opportunity to build on already existing knowledge. The development among students novel to SD was not necessarily captured in the concept maps but in some cases apparent in the final essay, which might be considered as evidence of transformative learning.