Papers Proceedings »
Service-Learning as an opportunity to introduce sustainability competences in engineering degrees
Society demands from the University to be an active actor for society transformation, and not only a centre of research and training of highly qualified professionals. Therefore, at present, the social mission of the University is consubstantial to it and, thus, must be present in all its facets, and not only restricted to actions specifically designed to address this purpose. In this regard, the inclusion of the sustainability in a holistic way is a new challenge the University must face to adapt its role to what the society is demanding from it. With respect to the formation role, the higher education institutions are already required to include competencies associated with the university social responsibility and sustainability within the actual curricula of degrees and masters. In recent years, we have already witnessed the difficulty of integrating non-specific competences in higher education during the implementation of the EHEA. However, the integration of these new competences seems even more complex than those transversal competences, and their acceptance may not be general (by both students and teachers). One of the main reasons that may rise more resistance by teachers is the difficulty for incorporating those competences in the structure of conventional degree/master subjects. Some studies may encounter less problems due to their intrinsic social projection (medicine, social work, psychology, teaching…); however, other like engineering will surely find more troubles when putting this into practice. Therefore, we consider essential to address efforts devoted to propose educational approaches that enables the introduction of the new competencies associated with the sustainability. Among the new teaching methodologies, perhaps the one that suits the best this purpose for the field of engineering is the Service Learning (SL) Service-Learning is a form of education based on experience that responds to a social demand. With this method of teaching, learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection through which students work with other colleagues in a process of applying what they have learned to the problems of the community. At the same time, the students reflect on the experience of pursuing real objectives for the community and increasing their own understanding and skills. This tool is proving to be an excellent vector for the integration of sustainability and RSU in the engineering subjects, since it can be applied in a relatively simple way to engineering problems and projects, thus allowing its integration in the curricula. In this sense, if the service in question is directly related to the content of the subject or subjects, it permits not only to work on its academic content, but it also provides a framework in which the student can learn about complex social problems and their role as engineers in them. In the present communication, the SL will be presented as a very powerful methodological tool, which can be applied in engineering subjects relatively easily, illustrated by some past success experiences and present projects that are being carried out in two public Spanish universities: the Universitat Jaume I and the University of the Basque Country.