Environmental Perspective in an Established Culture of Learning
Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet), 2004
Education on environmental and sustainability issues for engineers and architects is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Environmental education at Chalmers University of Technology has been built up since 1991 by instructors working in the different professional schools, but who also are connected to a multi-disciplinary network, the School of Environmental Sciences (GMV). The period of establishing this education has been evaluated in a project with the aim to compile experiences, to describe common features or significant differences and to discuss improvements. The project group consisted of nine instructors from many departments at Chalmers, and students who represented the students environmental association.
The project has been driven in workshops and seminars, and a survey of students with 370 questionnaires and 60 deep interviews has been conducted. The interviews have been directed at students at the end of the programs (4½ years) and who can give a perspective on how the environmental courses have worked in the curriculum as a whole. Results show that environmental education passed, however, without remarkable enthusiasm. The students have not discovered that environmental issues are treated in other courses. It is also evident that environmental courses have significant differences compared to ordinary courses. The subject matter is multi-disciplinary and contains value-oriented questions. The design of the courses has been directed towards open issues in which students must learn to discern relevant phenomena in relation to different perspectives in order to be able to handle the issues. Consequently, the design of the courses is relevant in relation to the subject, and in relation to pedagogical research on learning. However, environmental courses are seen as isolated from other courses at Chalmers, as regards both the characteristics of the subject and the methods for learning.
The environmental courses can be improved so that they comprise general insight into environmental issues and the implementation of these issues into different areas of technology. The network of environmental instructors can be used more efficiently. The environmental courses should not be the central focus. These courses are meant to be an introduction, accounting for 3-4 credits in a 180-credit program. Separate, introductory courses in environmental sciences are necessary, but implementation into different areas of technology must be given more space in existing courses. The approach to learning in the courses in environmental sciences seems to be useful in expanding educational development at Chalmers.
In 2004, Chalmers has decided to introduce compulsory courses in Sustainable Development. The development of these courses will be based on experience gleaned from the introduction of environmental courses into the curriculum.