Adapting Education To Change - How Much, How Fast, in What Way?

Summary - Keynote by Aldert Kamp, co-director of CDIO
TU Delft Education Day 04 November 2021
‘The Experiment- Shaping Delft Engineering Education’

The rate of change is overwhelming in this rapidly changing world!
Today’s student generation not only has to learn how to adapt to these changes, they also have to learn how to shape them. What is the impact of the changing society and students on higher education?
Do we actually know what an aspiring young engineer needs to learn to live a responsible life in this rapidly changing world?
Although the fundamentals of engineering have not changed, engineering and research processes have transformed into collaborative efforts of people with different backgrounds and different needs and expectations. Trust, good relationships, respect and adaptability have become as important as the mastery of theoretical concepts, theories and analysis.
 

Aldert Kamp

Do we actually know what an aspiring young engineer needs to learn to live a responsible life in this rapidly changing world?

Looking at our education programmes it is clear that al lot of the times we have been following the straight line. Always emphasising the How and When mindset. Teaching ‘How we have always done it’.  With a focus on Rational problem solving, the Mastery of theoretical concepts and theories, Analysis, Optimisation, Understanding certainty, Developing order. But that’s no longer enough. You might have an excellent programme in terms of ‘today’, but in terms of ‘tomorrow’ it might be obsolete.
Young graduates should be prepared for “New ways of working”. Looking at engineering students, what does that mean?
 

The engineering process is changing into digital engineering. Students have to be equipped to deal with this new way of engineering. Every engineer will do data engineering. Understanding the value and validity of data. Knowing how to annotate, clean and shape data, do large-scale data modelling, and work in the cloud.
But it’s not only digitization and data that is changing engineering. It’s also business, sustainability, social impact  that enter the daily work of the engineer.
 

But it’s not only digitization and data that is changing engineering. It’s also business, sustainability, social impact that enter the daily work of the engineer.

Human values matter more than ever. ‘How-to-do, what intelligent machines cannot?’. Creativity and imagination, transferring knowledge to different contexts, dealing with uncertainty, taking different perspectives, critical thinking, and although it’s not always listed also ‘Common Sense’. “I expect that the super intelligent machines will be simply too stupid to have any common sense at all”. Also emotions play an important role in the new way of working for engineers; we need emotions for empathy, building relationships, adapting and self-leadership for instance.
These are all unique values of human professionals and they have to get much more attention in the learning process for engineers. Also in Delft Engineering Education. 
Not bolted on top of, but integrated in disciplinary courses.
 

And last, not to be forgotten, interdisciplinary thinking. “I know this is always a delicate topic at research universities, where the specialists associate interdisciplinarity with ‘too soft for the real tough minds, but…“
Interdisciplinarity is not a ‘having a bit of this and a bit of that’. It’s about learning integrative skills, building synergies between different forms of knowledge and peripheral domains. It’s about tacit knowledge, panoptic perspectives and the willingness to go and read widely.
 

Interdisciplinarity is not a ‘having a bit of this and a bit of that’. It’s about learning integrative skills, building synergies between different forms of knowledge and peripheral domains.

We need our students to develop ‘Durable Skills’. 
And what about the students? They want to learn what’s relevant for their life and career and therefore need a broader range than just knowledge in a narrow specialisation. They may find it scary, but have to learn who they are, how they understand the world, what they expect to gain from their study, and what their aspirations are for changing the world. Adapting to the new generations of students is key in achieving excellent learning and teaching.
‘Can’t they learn all this when they join the workforce?‘ They can and they have to. But young graduates need a kickstart. 
Durable skills need to be made explicit in our education, at all levels. 
 

So the question we should ask ourselves is: how do we set our education’s learning outcomes up for durable competencies, mastering digital engineering, human values and interdisciplinary skills?
What role are you going to play in this? 
Prepare yourself. Be ready to unlearn, relearn, upskill. 
And experiment. 
 

The way Aldert Kamp talks about the importance of durable skills and the road that lies ahead of us, inspires me. Let’s make this work! Let’s integrate durable skills in our programmes, and make it explicit. Let’s contribute not only to innovation and expansion of knowledge, but even more to the personal development of students and staff.

― Annoesjka Cabo, Academic Director Teaching Academy
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