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Clarification of the overall learning objectives

KTH Sustainability Office has developed a proposal on the clarification of the overall learning objectives for the environment and sustainable development. The Faculty Council, at its meeting in August 2015, decided that these clarifications should be advisory at KTH for program and course development.

Below is a suggestion for a specification of the overall learning objectives. This proposal is meant to be general and relevant to all engineering programs. The objectives are to be implemented at a program level, not within individual courses. Program-specific goals should complement the general objectives.

Suggestion for learning objectives

Students should be able to

  1. Reflect on and discuss the definition of sustainable development with regard to the motives, history, definitions1, identifying the most important global challenges. Students should also be able to give examples of connections between ecological, economic and social sustainability.
  2. Critically discuss current objectives for sustainable development in Sweden, the EU and the UN2.
  3. Describe those activities and technological solutions in society, that are within the scope of the educational programs, and which affect global and prioritized Swedish sustainability aspects3. The students should also be able to discuss and evaluate various strategies to strengthen environmental impacts and prevent negative impacts.
  4. Explain economic and institutional factors that can inhibit sustainable development4.
  5. Describe, evaluate and apply general, and sectoral and technology-specific methods and strategies used in the development and design of products, processes and systems that contribute to sustainable development5.
  6. Identify and understand the link, with relevance to the educational program, between sustainability concept and innovation6.
  7. Discuss ethical aspects, especially relating to their future profession, of gender perspectives and other equity issues of sustainable development, such as the distribution of resources within and between generations.
  8. Connect an understanding of sustainable development (as described in the goals above) to the skills and knowledge specific for the educational program by proposing and discussing technical solutions, innovations and ideas that can contribute to sustainable development.

Of these eight learning objectives, number 1, 2, 4 and 7 are general while 3, 5, 6 and 8 must be handled as program-specific. Above all, the program-specific objectives need to be developed within the focus of each individual program.

Footnotes to Suggestion for learning objectives

1 Traditionally, sustainable development is defined as development that ... meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development is often described in terms of three dimensions; ecological, social and economic sustainability. In Sweden, ecological sustainability is often defined as the Swedish environmental quality objectives. The three dimensions are overlapping and interdependent. Issues such as health, equality and knowledge are often referred to as part of social sustainability. The Swedish public health goals as well as the UN millennium development goals can in this context be relevant starting points. Also, the ISO standard for social responsibility (ISO 26000) can be a starting point. Economic sustainability can for example mean that the sum of the different kinds of capital does not decrease over time.

2 In order to develop products, processes and systems with regard to society's sustainability goals, it is necessary to know of these goals. Examples include the Swedish environmental quality objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals. These are ambitious targets and are not often reviewed. One example where critical reflection may be interesting is the goal regarding climate change, where Sweden’s, EU’s and UN’s goal is the so-called two-degree target (that global temperatures will rise by a maximum of 2 degrees), while many scholars believe that this is a high risk goal that can lead to serious effects.

3 One example may be that the ICT educational program should address how the ICT sector can affect sustainability.

4 For example, it can be relevant to address the term "external costs". (An example of external costs can be financial losses due to trouble sleeping due to traffic noise. These costs are not compensated by those who generate traffic but b other actors.) Another example of institutional factors is the "Tragedy of the Commons". The legislation is yet another example of institutional factors.

5 The strategies should address a system perspective with a life cycle approach.

6 In this context, innovation means development of a new or significantly improved product (goods or services), process or system with commercial and/or societal benefit.