1. A guide for inspiration
Today our societies face a range of complex challenges, from sustainable development to ageing populations and the well-being of their citizens. University graduates can contribute solutions to societal problems that are trans-disciplinary, challenge driven and require skills beyond the knowledge of a single discipline. The role that universities play in societal development, beyond that of new knowledge creation, is gaining increased attention. How do universities address today and tomorrow’s societal problems through education? How does society interact with universities and vice versa?
People that enrol in university studies are often driven by a wish to make a difference in society. Universities around the world share a large pool of young, creative, curious students that want to make impact. To unleash the potential of young learners, to provide them with the skills to achieve their goals and support their entrepreneurial mind-set is a constant challenge in university education. Hence, the way we teach and train future generation is of utmost importance for both the individuals at our universities as well as for the development of our societies.
Specialized knowledge will always be at the core of a university graduate’s expertise. This Guide advocates that specialised knowledge be complemented by and built through open-ended, challenge based, interdisciplinary team work. Such an approach will enable students to bridge the gap between knowledge and societal demands, enabling them to make a contribution to society. Society cannot waste the talents of young people by leaving them unprepared to enter the workplace smoothly and speedily after graduation. Skills in solving open problems in teams greatly increase a graduate’s employability. In addition, we believe that the integration of open-ended, needs-driven problems in university education provides crucial competences for future decision-makers – for both the known and the unknown challenges ahead of us.
This Guide aims to support university teachers and societal collaboration partners through providing advice and inspiration for challenge driven project education. It is our hope that this Guide can serve as a platform for discussions on how to set up and realize good learning projects, leading to excellent training and development of students – as well as delivering relevant proposals for the development of solutions.
Not all universities are familiar with the didactics of challenge driven learning, nor are we all comfortable in grading and assessing individual student performance in project work in teams. Society at large lacks knowledge about the potential of open-ended, team based project work. When the world need young people skilled for new complex challenges, we need to develop methods and processes that will ensure academically correct performance evaluation. Teachers engaging in project driven learning also encounter a new dimension for interaction with society and engaging with student teams requires different competencies compared to standard classroom education. It becomes the responsibility of the teacher to assure that the student groups develop into high-performance teams and to avoid team failures.
The Guide will be delivered in a printed version and in a dynamic web version, this providing an opportunity to collect experiences from colleagues in different environments around the globe. It is our ambition to develop the Guide as a meeting place of universities and their teachers as well as those stakeholders that want to engage with young graduates for the benefit of societal development. This is the first published version – we still call it Work in Progress – we welcome your reflections and proposals for improvements!
Margareta Norell Bergendahl Ramon Wyss