PEOPLE project as best practice example for future European curricula!
Gregor Cerinsek, the coordinator and project manager of PEOPLE is part of the expert panel for developing curriculum guidelines in the area of key enabling technologies and advanced manufacturing technologies. The initiative has been launched by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) under the powers delegated by the European Commission, Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME (DG GROW). Key aim is to improve the quality and relevance of existing curricula for Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT), and to promote better cooperation between industry and education and training organisations.
PEOPLE project has been presented as a best practice example at two different expert workshops, one focusing on “aligning advanced manufacturing education and training with the 21st century needs” and the second one focusing on “future-proofing vocational education for manufacturing: strategy, collaboration patterns and learning environment”. Reports from both workshops can be found here and here.
PEOPLE project addressed the topic of the interdisciplinary student-centred co-creation between higher & vocational education and industry. It was exposed that in the contemporary world, which faces the challenges of the exponential growth of technology, two paradigms are shaping the way we see and perceive the development of our society. In the utopian paradigm, the technology and technological innovation are seen as something that will improve the society and solve all burning problems, from global warming to demographic challenges. On the contrary, the dystopian model suggests that technology will lead to the destruction of our societies and environment. Generally speaking, we can observe the presence of both paradigms also in the education system; relying on people as passive consumers of the technology on one hand side (more present in engineering education), and criticising all the development initiatives without offering suitable alternatives on the other (more present in social sciences and humanities).
The PEOPLE model of interdisciplinary university-business co-creation challenges both paradigms and perceives technology as something still unfinished, incomplete and always reshaped by the people (users) who improvise and manipulate with it. Crucial innovation in technology development lies in the ability to understand “what people will do with technology” and not “what technology will do to people”. This furthermore requires a shift in teaching and learning practices. The key intended learning outcome should not be the skills to design and develop technologies that will impose a desired behavioural change, neither the skills to create the need for these solutions. The taught skillset and competences should focus on involving people in the very beginning of the product, service, or system development process – opening-up the innovation opportunities through co-creation with the people and trying to understand how the existing behaviours could be the foundation for the societal and environmental change we aim to achieve.
The PEOPLE education model is based on the following principles:
(1) Interdisciplinary and essentially collaborative: bringing together different disciplines and expertise, where engineering works hand in hand with social sciences and humanities. Key guiding principle is “dare to see things from other perspectives than your own”;
(2) Multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder: involving industry professionals, university teachers and representatives of civil society and non-governmental organisations;
(3) People as co-creators: involved in all stages of product and service development process. Key guiding principle is “create with the people and not for them”;
(4) Rooted in ethnography: as a methodology to collect, analyse and understand the data and to generate in-depth insights about peoples’ behaviours, practices, and needs;
(5) In dialogue with theory and bringing up ethical considerations: understanding bigger contexts of emerging futures and world’s challenges.