Part of the 4TU.Federation
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information


To be able to contribute effectively to solving societal challenges, engineering students need to learn how to interact with societal stakeholders and incorporate their viewpoints in technology development. This proves to be difficult, especially when it concerns newly emerging technologies, which are ambiguous and full of uncertainties. In this study we developed a role-play simulation, called ā€˜Theatrical Technology Assessmentā€™, which combines insights from Science & Technology Studies and improvisational theater. Students dive into the role of stakeholders, discuss and negotiate, and explore future scenarios. They learn about complex dynamics in an engaging manner.

Project introduction and background information

Emerging technologies bear great promises for solving or mitigating societal challenges, such as the transition to cleaner energy production. However, the integration of emerging technologies in engineering education is difficult, as it requires engineering students to acquire state-of-the-art technological knowledge as well as an in-depth understanding complex societal dynamics. Moreover, engineering students tend to identify with the promoters of new technologies and oversimplify stakeholder dynamics, potentially leading to ineffective or irresponsible perspectives on technology development.

In this project, we developed a role-play simulation called ā€˜Theatrical Technology Assessmentā€™, in which students learn about complex stakeholder dynamics around emerging technologies. This role-play was developed and piloted with a Comenius Teaching fellowship for an in-class setting. In a subsequent SUTQ project, an online version was developed and evaluated.

Objective and expected outcomes

The purpose of this project was to design an effective and engaging role-play simulation for offline and online engineering education, and to evaluate what students learn about complex stakeholder dynamics. It was implemented and evaluated with first year students of an honours bachelor in Technology and Liberal Arts & Sciences, as part of a semester project on sustainable energy technologies.

Results and learnings

The project corroborates that a role-play simulation can be a powerful and engaging educational format for students to learn about the complexity of societal interactions around emerging technologies. Students enjoyed the experience and learned about different stakeholder perspectives, the effects of technological and societal uncertainties on decision making, and strategies that stakeholders can follow to steer technology development in a responsible and effective way.