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Transforming Science and Technology Education for the Anthropocene Era

A Stockholm Trio collaborative Project

Published Oct 18, 2023

Anne-Kathrin Peters, Associate Professor at KTH, has secured funding through the national HP-lyftet, funds for projects aimed at stimulating development and new knowledge nationally in the practice of higher education pedagogy. The funds are for an exciting project that addresses one of the most pressing challenges in higher education today; To change how science and technology are taught and perceived in our time, which we now call the Anthropocene era.

Transforming the teaching of science and technology

The aim of the project is to transform the teaching of science and technology by applying existing research and collaborating with committed teachers. The focus areas are courses that do not normally include sustainability issues, and making such a change is both important and challenging.

The project aims to create a learning environment where teachers are encouraged to think outside the box and challenge current norms and values in the subject. This includes reflecting on how technology affects our society in the Anthropocene, an era characterised by human impact on the planet.

To achieve these goals, the project uses a multidisciplinary approach that integrates insights from different disciplines. It aims to broaden the view of science and technology and raise awareness of the role of technology and its impact on individuals, society and the environment. 

Interview with Anne-Kathrin Peters

In this short interview, Associate Professor Anne-Kathrin Peters shares her insights, experiences and vision for the project with Stockholm University.

Associate professor Anne-Kathrin Peters

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role in the sustainability education project?

I am a trained computer scientist and teacher. During my studies in computer science, I have had many thoughts about computer science and university programmes and found my studies generally quite poor. I often did not understand the meaning of what we were doing and how I, as a computer scientist, could contribute to a better world in a non-naïve, overly techno-optimistic way. Since 2011, I have been researching higher education, especially technology programmes. I have studied who computer science students become during their studies and how they are shaped by the norms and values that are created and reproduced in our programmes. I have seen how students are encouraged to give up broader, interdisciplinary interests, as well as the desire to help people and contribute to the world.

What was the main reason why you chose to participate in this project and what do you hope to achieve through it?

The project team consists of six researchers and educators with extensive and diverse experience in science and technology education. All together we see that there are fundamental problems in science and technology education and have different insights and methods for how the education could be done in other ways. It feels very meaningful and stimulating to be part of and contribute to that group. It will give me new opportunities to work with educational transformation at KTH.

What specific challenges or problems in science and technology education does the project aim to solve?

Decades of research have criticised science and technology education for narrow norms and values that marginalise or exclude people and perspectives. For example, engineering education has been criticised for reproducing narrow ways of discussing technological development, where the complexity of the connection to societal issues is seen as irrelevant. Areas related to cultural expressions such as subjectivity, empathy and creativity are marginalised, limiting the possibilities to address societal challenges. Education in Western countries, especially in science and technology, creates distance between people and the world and produces an image of people as having control over the world as objects. That is, there is a dominant way of doing and knowing science and technology that students are socialised with, which is limiting and can be seen as enabling the problems we have in the Anthropocene, such as exploitation.

How do you see the long-term impact of the project on higher education and society at large in terms of sustainability education?

I hope the project contributes to the transformation of education. Within the project team, we will learn about the needs of teachers to work with change, the kinds of changes that can be achieved through co-creation, and how higher education pedagogy interventions can support teachers. This project will also strengthen the cooperation on higher education pedagogy between the universities in Stockholm (Stockholm Trio).

Do you have any advice or insights to share with other teachers who want to get involved in sustainability education?

Join the project! It will be a unique opportunity to learn from a group of people who have researched education and worked on pedagogical development for sustainability, as well as other teachers who are interested in developing their education for sustainability. What is unique is that you will also receive support during the actual implementation of new elements and to evaluate them to understand how the new elements can be improved. There are also other relevant higher education pedagogical courses that provide support for reflecting on your own education and learning about education for sustainability (read more on Higher Education Pedagogical courses  ). It can be hard to face the challenges but you are not alone and there are many people experimenting with doing education in new ways. It is good to connect with such people and collaborate. One such group of committed teachers at KTH is the priU group for sustainability and gender equality (which has met together recently). 

Read also the debate article Universitetsläraren on how Sweden's engineering programmes need to be developed according to the study Så kan regeringens satsning stärka Sveriges ingenjörsutbildningar  (In Swedish only) which Anne-Kathrin has contributed to.

Pedagogical development 

One of the most exciting aspects of the project is its focus on pedagogical development. It aims to provide teachers and lecturers with tools and insights to engage students in a more meaningful way. By developing new teaching materials and methods, the project hopes that students will develop a deeper understanding of the subject and its relevance in our time.

The project involves not only teachers but also course coordinators, lecturers, and directors of studies. Through cooperation and exchange of experience between these actors, the project is expected to create a positive impact at both local and national levels. It will help to strengthen teaching development and promote knowledge transfer between different higher education institutions.

Commitment to sustainability 

Finally, the project's goal is to continue to influence higher education and research in the field in Sweden and potentially internationally. By capitalising on teachers' and students' experiences and commitment to sustainability, the project can continue to flourish and create a future where science and technology as well as education in these fields, are key to a better world in the Anthropocene era. 

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Page responsible:Madeleine Tucker Smith
Belongs to: The Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences
Last changed: Oct 18, 2023