Passionate about sustainable development
Teachers' commitment rubs off on their students. To succeed there must be a change in teaching methods, says Emma Strömberg, who has been given this year’s KTH Teacher’s Prize.
As a researcher in fibre and polymer technology, Emma Strömberg examines how different materials affect the environment, and as a teacher, she wants to involve every student in sustainable development issues.
In recent years, in light of higher education requirements and KTH’s environmental objectives, Strömberg has been engaged in efforts to integrate sustainable development in architecture and engineering programmes. Among other things, she has developed a university teaching course and organised theme days on the subject, for both teachers and business.
”I have been passionate about sustainable development for a long time, and to bring it into teaching has been incredibly rewarding. The students are very involved, which makes it a lot of fun.”
The Sustainable Development education course is popular. The course has contributed to developing training programmes and furthering the discussion of sustainable development in schools, says Emma Strömberg, who, among other things, has developed the course's teaching plans.
”There are many different teaching methods; you have to dare to try and use all the ones that are available,” she explains. ”If it doesn’t work, go back and try again. The most important thing is that you don’t get stuck on one way of doing things.”
In her own teaching, Emma Strömberg wants to reach everyone; her goal is that every student should develop their knowledge and skills.
”All my teaching is interactive. I try to involve the students by organising seminars, debates, role plays, evaluation exercises and tasks that help them to reflect on what they are doing. It works really well; they learn much more when they are part of the teaching and can influence the content of what they learn.”
In the role plays, students have represented various groups, politicians and industries; topics they have debated include the advantages and disadvantages of using chemicals.
”It was a bit like a debate programme on TV, where the rest of the students were the audience. They showed enormous commitment and they even wore clothing that corresponded to their roles,” says Emma Strömberg.
One purpose of the debate exercises has been to get students to look up, to see the bigger picture and understand the complexity of sustainable development. Regardless of what they are going to work with after their studies, it is important that they can put forward their opinions and convey the knowledge they have acquired in their different fields of engineering, she says.
Emma Strömberg is proud of the work that has been done so far, with the cooperation of teachers, programme directors, education managers and the KTH Sustainability Office, to integrate sustainable development into education:
”We have come a very long way in a short time. While there is still much to do, the next step is to integrate sustainable development at the bachelor, master’s and postgraduate levels.”
So how does it feel to have your work rewarded by the Teacher’s Prize?
”Really great. I’m very moved to have been appreciated for my contribution. It also feels terrific to be part of the "club" with the previous award winners; they're all people I look up to for what they have achieved.”
Text: Christer Gummeson