This PhD research aims to explore relevant pedagogies in engineering higher education that address the inner dimension of learning and that can equip students to be responsible agents in a complex and uncertain world facing major societal challenges. Those societal challenges – from ensuring the energy transition, to preserving biodiversity, to safeguarding well-being – are highly complex. They involve different values and conflicting perspectives and are characterized by uncertainties and moral dilemmas. For example, questions such as – Is cloning acceptable? Should consequences for non-human species count in decision-making? Is Covid-19 vaccination to be imposed by law? – evoke the need for being able to cope with (ethical) tensions, develop character and learn to act from an inner moral compass in the face of dilemmas and uncertainties.
Nowadays, innovations in engineering higher education pedagogies mainly focus on transferring high-quality scientific knowledge and on objectively investigating societal challenges, on supporting the development of technical skills, on codes of conduct and on the integration of multiple forms of knowledge to respond to those challenges. As much as this is highly relevant, it also falls short in addressing more personal and affective-moral dimensions of learning. The nature of the societal challenges at hand, can make people feeling overwhelmed, cause emotional discomfort, anxiety, lack of motivation, a sense of paralysis and of not knowing how to responsibly engage in a contested uncertain world. This PhD takes as starting point that university education should also engage in pedagogies and set learning goals that bring to the surface such experiences and that, while striving to not be prescriptive, do help students to navigate them.
The goal of this PhD is map to what degree moral and ethical themes are present in current WUR education and to help design pedagogies that give space to this and help cultivating responsible engineers that care for today’s challenges. This research is supported by the 4TU.Federation of engineering Dutch Universities, including TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, and Wageningen University. The central study context of this PhD is Wageningen University, focusing on the domain of food and living environment. Within this study context, the PhD will address the following research questions:
- What characterizes a responsible engineer from the inside-out?
- Are there and what are current pedagogical approaches that support the development of qualities of responsible engineers?
- What are the experiences of teachers and students when implementing pedagogies for deep learning, and what can we learn from it?
- How to best create, expand or optimize learning environments in order to upscale those pedagogical approaches?
This PhD project will be supervised by a team of experts from the ELS (Education and Learning Sciences) and PHI (Philosophy) chair groups. Also, an advisory board will be formed to guide the project, which will consist of content experts and stakeholders from WUR education.
The PhD candidate is expected to:
- Elaborate a research proposal and complete a PhD dissertation (in English) within the four year period,
- conduct high-quality empirical research,
- write high quality scientific articles,
- follow a training and supervision plan in the WASS and ICO graduate schools,
- present papers at (international) conferences,
- participate in research meetings of ELS, the broader WUR research cluster (CPT) and 4TU.CEE.
- completed MSc degree (or near-completion) in one of the following fields: educational sciences, learning sciences, philosophy, social sciences or engineering studies,
- expertise in teaching and educational design is a plus,
- having a research master degree is a plus,
- proven proficiency in English (oral and written),
- excellent academic record (as shown by a list of MSc grades),
- familiarity with planning and conducting empirical studies,
- familiarity with working with online learning environments,
- familiarity with qualitative thematic analysis and quantitative analysis,
- creativity, enthusiasm, good collaboration and communication skills.
Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
- sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
- working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
- the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
- there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
- a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
- excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.The gross salary for the first year is € 2.434,- per month rising to € 3.111,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.
There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.