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Integrating social sustainability in engineering education at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3973-3466
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Fibre and Polymer Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2139-7460
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, ISSN 1467-6370, E-ISSN 1758-6739, Vol. 16, no 5, 639-649 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to investigate what are perceived to be the main challenges associated with the integration of social sustainability into engineering education at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. Design/methodology/approach - Semi-structured interviews were conducted with programme leaders and teachers from four engineering programmes. The paper focuses on how the concept of social sustainability is defined and operationalised in the selected engineering programmes, how social sustainability is integrated and taught, and what resources are required to support teachers and programme leaders as social sustainability educators. Findings - The findings show that programme leaders and teachers at KTH struggle to understand the concept of social sustainability. The vague and value-laden nature of the concept is considered a challenge when operationalising educational policy goals on social sustainability into effective learning outcomes and activities. A consequence is that the responsibility for lesson content ultimately falls on the individual teacher. Study visits and role-play are seen as the most effective tools when integrating social sustainability into the engineering curriculum. Allocation of specific resources including supplementary sustainability training for teachers and economic incentives are considered crucial to successful integration of social sustainability. The findings indicate that social sustainability education needs to be built on a theoretical foundation. It is therefore suggested that a literature canon be established that clarifies the contours of social sustainability. Practical implications - The findings of the paper can be used as a basis for discussion regarding measures for improving social sustainability training in engineering education, a subject which has attracted relatively little attention, to date. Originality/value - There is a noticeable lack of empirical research on how technical universities integrate social sustainability into engineering education. The paper provides an account of how actors directly involved in this work - programme leaders and teachers - define and operationalise the social dimension of sustainable development in their engineering curricula, the pedagogical tools they consider effective when teaching social sustainability issues to engineering students, and the resources they believe are needed to strengthen those efforts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 16, no 5, 639-649 p.
Keyword [en]
Social sustainability, Integration, Sustainable development, Curriculum design, Engineering education
National Category
Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-174000DOI: 10.1108/IJSHE-01-2014-0010ISI: 000360573000003ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84938375596OAI: diva2:858007

QC 20150930

Available from: 2015-09-30 Created: 2015-09-24 Last updated: 2015-09-30Bibliographically approved

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Edvardsson Björnberg, KarinSkogh, Inga-BrittStrömberg, Emma
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