New pedagogical approach in Södertälje
Educational environments that inspire new ways of thinking are one of the ambitions of KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s new campus in Södertälje.
“It feels exciting and bodes well for the future,” says teacher Alexander Engström, who has tried out the new classrooms and workshops.
The focus at KTH’s new campus is on greater cooperation with industry, and the proximity to the business community can also be clearly felt when visiting the recently opened premises. Next door are collaborative partners Scania and AstraZeneca, and a short distance away is the Tom Tits Experiment science museum for children.
Where KTH staff are concerned, the move that was initially planned for September took place between Christmas and New Year. The first students arrived in mid-January.
“Now that we’ve finally moved in, I think a lot of people feel a sense of relief,” says Alexander Engström, who hopes that the campus will be a popular meeting place where students will feel at home and want to spend time together and study, even in the evenings and at weekends.
The campus has emerged in collaboration with the teaching staff. They have expressed their needs during workshops and exchanged sketches and construction plans with architects and project managers. One idea has been to create environments that can be adapted to different pedagogical methods, both traditional and new, according to Kristina Palm, Head of the Department of Sustainable Production Development:
“We want to inspire staff to use many different teaching methods, for example by the option of partitioning certain lecture halls using curtains, providing whiteboards in various locations in the room and moving tables together to create small group settings.”
Alexander Engström, who teaches mechanical and production engineering, is satisfied with the lecture halls, both those he has taught in so far and those he has only had time to inspect. He appreciates the flexibility – the ease of being able to switch from a lecture to a discussion or a talk in which students learn from each other.
“I like to use a mix of teaching methods. At the same time, I see a greater need for students to interact with each other, particularly in the latter years of their programmes. Many of those who embark on an engineering programme with us have already worked in industry and are able to contribute valuable experience,” he says.
The best new feature compared to the previous campus is, according to Alexander Engström, the additional lab environments – the materials lab, where theories and materials science can be illustrated, and the design workshop, where various product prototypes made of wood, plastic and paper are produced. On the premises, there is also a chemistry lab for those on the technical foundation year.
“Many students lack basic technical knowledge when they start their programme. The lab provides us with the pedagogical tools to tackle these deficiencies. Theories and concepts also become easier to understand if you get the chance to touch and become acquainted with real materials.”
Generating interest in research
Several research projects have been launched in collaboration with Scania, AstraZeneca and other companies and are to be linked to the first-cycle programme through degree projects, for example, which is a new feature of KTH’s programmes in Södertälje.
“It’s going to be great. We’ll get to see how the results trickle down to the programme, and I hope that this can generate interest in research among students and that they may perhaps want to continue on that path after their degree,” says Alexander Engström.
Much of what the teaching staff asked for regarding the new campus has been provided in Alexander Engström’s opinion – purpose-built premises with advanced audiovisual technology and plenty of meeting rooms. He likes the open plan solution with glass walls in the lecture halls and workshops, as these ensure better contact with students.
The next thing he would like to see is more equipment in the model workshop, including a 3D printer for metallic materials.
“If that was made available, you could print out products that can be implemented immediately in the students’ designs. That would be a real plus point.”
Text: Christer Gummeson