Professional Stakeholders as Co-Creators of Knowledge
Summary of 4TU CEE webinar, Wednesday 25th January 2023
Last January 25th, 4TU CEE organized a webinar on Professional Stakeholders as Co-Creators of Knowledge, with Renate Klaassen (TU Delft) hosting the meeting. The webinar consisted of three inspiring talks, given by respectively Saskia Ruijsink (TU Delft), Sarah de Vries (WUR) and Jan Axelsson (Linköping University, Sweden).
Engaging with Professionals: Integration of Knowledge in Practice
Saskia Ruijsink (TU Delft) kicked off her presentation with a course called Space4Citizens that she designed and implemented with a team of professionals and university lecturers in Lebanon. It aimed at co-creating a context-specific approach to engage stakeholders in city-making processes. The starting point of the course setup was: “how can we involve non spatially-trained stakeholders in urban planning processes?”.
The second course Saskia presented was developed for the municipality of Rotterdam together with the Veldacademie. It is an iteration of the Space4Citizens course targeting employees of the Rotterdam municipality, working in different departments. The course focuses on integrated urban development and will run for the 4th time in 2023. Participants in this course value the balance between theory and practice, but also the different lenses through which the variety of participants approach the issues at hand.
Both courses presented by Saskia were designed to integrate theory and practice. In addition, the Rotterdam course also explicitly addresses integration from different disciplinary perspectives (interdisciplinarity).
The Mixed Classroom: Transdisciplinary Experiential Learning
Sarah de Vries (WUR) started by explaining the mixed classroom concept, and she explained its value in the context of lifelong learning and addressing wicked problems. The mixed classroom is a transdisciplinary educational concept which lets students and professionals learn collaboratively. The objective is to deal with wicked problems by integrating perspectives, knowledge and practices from different disciplines and science and society.
Sarah presented one of the Managing Public Space courses, which like Saskia’s Rotterdam course addresses urban development. Several pedagogical approaches are incorporated in this course, like self-directed, experiential, active, authentic and collaborative learning, but also boundary crossing. Some participants’ experiences were shared, stating that students value the perspective of daily practice that professionals bring in. Professionals indicate that collaborating with students helps creating solutions they would never think of themselves.
Sarah actively engaged with the webinar participants who confirmed they appreciate the mixed classroom concept. At the same time they see some challenges that were also addressed by the course implementers and participants:
• Professionals can be insecure about their academic skills and might have limited academic interest and/ or expertise .
• Equality between professionals and students, e.g. students might have challenges to speak up.
• Need for teachers with capacity and interest in spanning boundaries between practice and science.
• Professionals sometime face challenges in effectively regulating their learning process and need support.
Challenge-based learning and impact
Jan Axelsson (Linköping University, Sweden) is involved with ECIU Network: the European Consortium of Innovative Universities. ECIU University is a European University which is a transnational alliance positioned as ‘the university of the future’. In European University, learners, teachers and researchers cooperate with society and businesses to solve real-life challenges. Jan presented this Challenge-based Learning approach to education, research, and innovation.
This approach starts with a challenge. Various partners from practice (e.g. private companies, public sector organisations and NGO’s) formulate broad societal challenges. Those challenges are then shared with students. The students interpret challenges at hand and develop questions that they will answer in their educational process. Students are in the driver’s seat of the learning process, teachers support them in this co-creative learning process. Students develop solutions that they share with the challenge providers with the aim to be implemented. In this manner the educational project is also impact-oriented.
The ECIU Network monitors the Challenge-based Learning process, including its impact. The experience shows that challenge providers, students and teachers are all learners in the process who co-create and who all appreciate this process.
One participant asked Saskia whether they considered to mix students and professionals in the Rotterdam course. At that time, it was not a suitable moment to do so for the municipality. But this for sure could be something to consider for future course runs. During the talk of Sarah, one attendee noticed that in the mixed classroom, teachers have an extended role compared to traditional education. It was pointed out that this could be challenging for teachers. As a response to Jan’s presentation the term VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – was discussed and Jan explained that indeed, teachers experience that they operate in a context with a high degree of VUCA. It is essential that teachers learn how to deal with that, this is not always easy, but in this process they also learn by doing and enjoy it.
Today’s webinar contained inspiring examples and vibrant considerations. It made clear how professionals can be involved in higher education in several ways, either as stakeholders or learners. It is exciting to see this development, especially since we are in the middle of a societal shift towards lifelong learning where the line between students, professionals and teachers is blurring.
4TU CEE would like to thank Sarah de Vries for her Blog Contribution on the 4TU CEE webinar for jan. 25. If you would like to see the video again please find the link to the session included.
Confident Men And Women Meeting At Office by Jacob Lund Photography from NounProject.com