Can ‚passionate engineers’ contribute to the mitigatian of Global Warming ?

AbstraktAlthough science and engineering are seen as key players for ameliorating the current environmental crises due to climate change, this approach seems to be inadequate and simplistic in the face of the complexity of the problem; especially so because such an approach usually neglects the needs of the users. Giving citizens a voice in the process of research and innovation is therefore a genuine feature of sustainable development as it considers their values, needs and expectations in the design, the conduct and the outcomes of research and innovation projects. This idea is addressed by the European Commission (Gheoghegan-Quinn 2012) which recently promoted the “Responsible Research and Innovation”(RRI) approach. Furthermore Hodson (2010) focuses our attention on the fact that conventional scientific literacy educational concepts fall short of preparing students for taking part in such RRI-processes. These concepts follow an economic imperative perspective in considering school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as the key to a country’s prosperity but do not pay explicit attention to the complex interactions between science, technology, society and environment. Yet awareness of these multiple interdependencies has to be seen as a precondition for citizens – lay-persons as well as experts – who are capable of participating in a deliberate democratic process which transforms technologically dependent societies into sustainable ones. Relying on discourse analysis of selected data provided by the ongoing research and development project “SOLARbrunn- heading for a future powered by the sun”, this paper highlights some facets of STEM- education which seem to be indispensable for empowering young people to contribute to sustainable development based on research and innovation processes in the sense of RRI. For situating societal problems in STEM-education Zeidler et al (2003) have given a framework of what they called “functional scientific literacy” which aims at cognitive as well as moral development of students. Based on this framework a collaborative research process was centered around a local developmental issue – the transformation of a municipal kindergarten into a "social green building": Students of the Higher College of Engineering (HTL) in the neighborhood of the kindergarten supported by their teachers, an interdisciplinary research-team (a physicist specialized in photovoltaics and environmental physics, a researcher in physics education specialized in gender and diversity issues and Nature of Science issues, a social anthropologist specialized in Education for Sustainable Development) and teacher students majoring in physics did the research work on which the suggestions for transformation were built in the context of their A-level-thesis. As finding the right answers for enhancing the comfort at the kindergarten is only possible when those stakeholders for whose use the innovations are designed – the kindergarten staff and the local municipal government – are continuously involved in the research process, the project could only be conducted successfully if ‘soft’ social and ‘hard’ scientific data were combined. However this regularly challenged the picture of passionate engineering. Thus the diverse and partly conflicting epistemological orientations towards STEM were a key discourse issue which not only gave rise to critical thinking about “passionate engineering” but also to discussions of further organisational development opportunities for making STEM-education in general and Higher Colleges of Engineering specifically a more welcoming field for girls.
NameBartosch, Ilse
VeranstaltungInternational Symposium in Science Education
Art der VeranstaltungKonferenz
Keywords:503013 Fachdidaktik Naturwissenschaften