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RESEARCH PAPERS

A Competence-Based Approach to Sustainable Innovation Teaching: Experiences Within a New Engineering Program

[+] Author and Article Information
T. C. McAloone

 Technical University of Denmark, Department of Mechanical Engineering, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmarktm@mek.dtu.dk

The European higher education teaching mode agreed under the Bologna Accord (10).

The word course is used in this paper to describe a teaching module, typically lasting for one semester, counting for between 5 and 15 ECTS points.

J. Mech. Des 129(7), 769-778 (Feb 28, 2007) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2723806 History: Received December 06, 2006; Revised February 28, 2007

Innovation and sustainability are two areas upon which Scandinavian countries place a great deal of attention, in order to maintain strong positions in the global market and strong welfare societies. A current movement in many engineering-related universities in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe is seeing a necessary rethinking, reorganization, and relaunch of engineering curricula. This movement is underway in response to drastically decreasing student numbers in the 1990s and early years of the current decade, and to a recognition of the need to innovate educational curricula, in order to be able to educate and deliver candidates to modern-day and future industrial companies and organizations (Heller, 2001, SEFI Annual Conference, Copenhagen, 12–14, September). The sustainability focus of many of the Scandinavian universities has often resulted in instrumental contributions to environmental agendas and methodical approaches towards environmental improvements, (Robert, 2002, The Natural Step Story: Seeding a Quiet Revolution, New Society, Gabriola Island), both through educational curricula and research programs. This paper presents an initiative from Denmark, showing new interpretations of industrial needs, research insights, educational ideas, and identification of core innovative engineering competencies. (Andreasen, McAloone, and Hansen, 2000, “On the Teaching of Product Development and Innovation  ,” Proceedings of International Workshop on Education for Engineering Design (EED), Pilsen,E. Eder ed., November 23-24; Munch and Jakobsen, 2005, “The Concept of Competence in Engineering Practice  ,” in Proceedings of Engineering Product Design Conference, Edinburgh). The new Danish Master of Science engineering program, Design and Innovation, presents a radically updated set of contents, pedagogical style, and learning goals for the education of engineers. The articulation of this new curriculum points to new roles and identities for the professionalism of synthesis and innovation, including a strong focus on sustainable innovation. By focusing particularly on the Design and Innovation program’s fifth semester, which is entitled Innovation for Sustainability, the efforts we have made to renew the educational approach and contents in our engineering teaching will be shown in this paper. This semester has been the object of a research exercise, to affect and observe various approaches to the teaching of design. Particular attention will be paid in this case to competencies, both initiated in the teaching and evaluated in the students’ interpretation of the theoretical contents. The lessons learned from the first 3 years of this semester’s application and teaching to approximately 55 students per year are presented and discussed. After introducing the motivation and background for establishing the education program, the consideration of competence-based education is described, in the context of design engineering. The whole focus on competencies is central to the ambition of nurturing an innovative approach to sustainability, as described in the case, which focused on relating the contents, context, and responsibilities connected to engineering for sustainability. The two course-modules described in the case are analyzed in terms of four views of competency, to enable a discussion of the merits of training competencies in engineering students, rather than just skills.

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Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

The Design and Innovation program structure up to the bachelor level

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Figure 2

Project on Design and Innovation 5th semester, with a selection of competencies demonstrated

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Figure 3

Thematic and professional focus through specialization

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Figure 4

Competence intentions versus results (teachable versus learnable)

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Figure 5

Two life-cycles must be observed and optimized (13)

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Figure 6

Product life gallery for terrace heater (Student project submission, 2005)

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Figure 7

CAC model for a sick patient (Vandermerwe (15))

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Figure 8

Example of a PSS concept description (Student project submission, 2004)

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Figure 9

Mapping teachable versus learnable competencies

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