Taking learning out of the classroom
“Be creative, cross discipline boundaries and take learning out of the classroom”. This sums up KTH Associate Professor Luigia Brandimarte’s outlook on education methodology. And that outlook helped her win 2022 KTH Pedagogical Prize.
Luigia Brandimarte, who has been at KTH since 2016, is an Associate Professor in Hydraulic Engineering at the Sustainable Development, Environmental Sciences and Engineering department (SEED). Her specific focus area is water engineering, flood risk management and the mutual interaction between fluvial processes and human activities.
A creative and critical thinker
Luigia Brandimarte herself attributes her view on education to the realization that the role of engineers in society has changed compared to what it used to be. “When I studied, an engineer was someone who solves a problem within a specific domain,” she says.
“But nowadays, the problems our future engineers face are more multidisciplinary and interconnected. Engineers can’t just be experts in their field, they need to have the flexibility to work with professionals from other sectors and disciplines”.
She argues that to be creative and flexible in the engineering profession, students need to be creative and flexible in learning. “As a teacher, I think I need to help students go in that direction.”
A top performance
Recently, Luigia Brandimarte came up with a novel idea to help her students look at the concepts of fluid mechanics in a whole new, creative way, based on the concept by teaching we learn, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca.
Fueled by her passion for modern dance, Luigia Brandimarte devised a pedagogical experiment whereby her engineering students collaborated with students from the Stockholm School of Circus. Half of her group had to teach fluid mechanics concepts to the circus students, who had the task to visualize the concepts in an artistic performance, while the other half of her group had to guess which concepts the performances described.
“It was daunting in the beginning and both sides were a little nervous, but what they achieved was amazing,” she says.
“Above all, it addressed the issue of working in a multidisciplinary environment with a creative approach, out of context –be creative, cross discipline boundaries and take learning out of the classroom.
Winning the KTH's Pedagogical Prize was a “hugely flattering surprise,” Luigia Brandimarte says.
“It wasn’t just the prize, but the motivation, because it explains exactly what I try to achieve.”
She hasn’t decided yet how she will use the SEK 20,000, though.
“I’m thinking of starting doing research related to pedagogy, so it may be good for me to go to a couple of conferences in engineering education. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.”
Text: Geoff Mortimore