International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Developing change agency for sustainable development : experiences from a new chemical engineering course Svanström, Magdalena


The chemical engineering programme at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden, has had compulsory courses on environmental science, environmental engineering and sustainable development (SD) at bachelor level for many years. This paper reports on curriculum development projects performed in 2013 and 2014 aimed at improving the quality of the program curriculum with regard to the compulsory content on ‘environment and SD’ and on experiences of planning a new course that was developed as a result of these projects: Perspectives on chemical engineering. The curriculum development projects contrasted the existing curriculum to syllabi from upper secondary school, to needs expressed by industry, alumni and engineering students, and to state-of-the-art engineering education for SD, and ended up in, among other things, ideas to be implemented in a new course in the first year. The new course focuses on introducing chemical engineering and the professional role of the chemical engineer, and developing change agency for SD. The new course was given for the first time in late spring 2015. In the course, the students are doing a smaller individual change project in which they change something in their daily life for a week and assess the impact and reflect on the challenges in making the change. They also do a larger group project in which they make a sustainability assessment of a considered sustainability-motivated change in chemical industry, including reflecting on the challenges in achieving change. Industry representatives help to guide the students in the project. The course also introduces basic concepts and tools like life cycle perspective, mass balances, biorefinery and industrial symbiosis. Special care is put into attempting to constructively align teaching and learning activities and assessment to the overall goal of developing students’ change agency for SD. The paper reports on this endeavour. The presentation at the conference also reports on the actual experiences from giving the course for the first time, in particular in relation to change agency for SD.

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