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Carlos Casanueva Perez talks about the strategic educational development program at KTH

Published Aug 31, 2022
Carlos Casanueva Perez

Anna Burvall, Carlos Casanueva Perez, Roy Skjelnes and Martin Viklund were selected to participate in a development-oriented and meritorious program for skilled teachers at KTH ( learn more about the Program here ). Carlos Casanueva Perez talked to us about his background and his participation in the program.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My pronouns are He/Him, I'm associate professor in Rail Vehicles Technology at the Engineering Mechanics department, and I do research mainly about the dynamics of vehicle-track systems. I teach rail vehicles related courses and lectures, mostly at Master level, but also a little on equality and diversity in research environments. I am also part of the leadership team at the Centre for ECO2 Vehicle Design, and Program Director for the 5-year degree program in Vehicle Engineering (Farkostteknik CivEng); I was Program Director of the international Master Program in Railway Engineering until July 2022.

I studied industrial/mechanical engineering back in Spain (in Donostia-San Sebastian, lovely place and even better food), and did my PhD on the dynamic behaviour of variable gauge wheelsets (one of these: ). Then ended up at KTH Rail Vehicles group as a postdoctoral researcher, and was lucky enough to land this tenure track gig! Stockholm is also a lovely place, but the food is not that good compared to the Basque Country...

At a more personal level, I enjoy the regular stuff (reading nice books and watching nice films and series, traveling...), plus board games and mushroom hunting when in season. I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD Inattentive Type, so I feel pretty lucky being where I am in my life and career!

What are your principles when it comes to teaching or performing other pedagogical activities?

I would say I ground my own pedagogic activities in an overly enthusiastic approach to teaching and learning, being supportive and close to the students, and a systematic continuous development of my courses and activities. I am always open to modifying significant bits of a course from year to year, and I put an extra effort on showing students what we did for them as course development based on the feedback from former students. Then I highlight those points once more at the end of the course to try to increase the participation in the Learning Experience Questionnaire; I sometimes still get a rather bad answer rate in the LEQ, but it usually works well! I enjoy doing this in a collegial way too, discussing it with colleagues and contributing to other courses' development if possible.

What drove you to apply to the program?

After the first pedagogical course I took at KTH I have been more and more interested in education and pedagogy, and I would love to have a balanced work-life when it comes to research and education. When I heard about the program I had already discussed becoming Program Director of the 5-year degree program in Vehicle Engineering, so it was a unique opportunity to develop my skills and have a bigger impact as Program Director.

What are you planning to do through your participation in the program?

I am gathering information about what the Vehicle Engineering students do before and during their first year at KTH, academic or otherwise. Then the plan is to cross-correlate those with the activities and attitudes known to have an impact on student performance and persistence, both from previous KTH experiences and from pedagogic literature. Some things I think are interesting are for example the activities that engage them with faculty, or how their social and geographical background before KTH shapes their year 1 activities - and thus all their studies afterwards.

It has not been easy to define what my project was exactly. The overarching theme and initial proposal was around our willingness to create a continuous development process for the 5-year program, heavily rooted in a collegial approach. But that is a huge project, and we are working on this as we speak. At some point then my interests forked in two distinct directions: I could look into the organizational side, the creation of a collegial "grassroots" movement for continuously improving and developing the program based on the most active actors - course responsibles, program administrators, and students; or I could go into understanding the student base for the 5-year program and what do they need for successfully tackling course after course until becoming fully fledged engineering graduates. I chose this second one, focusing on the freshman year as the most formative year of their studies. I think that in the end it will become an emergent project from all these different parallel works, we'll see where we land!

Questions: Danai Deligeorgaki