DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Tully, Robert
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Technical University Dublin, Ireland
Section: Responsible innovation in design and engineering education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.99
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


In an age of disruption and challenging educational demands, we need our Higher Education Institutions to make the necessary changes in policy and strategy to remain relevant. Responsible innovation is therefore an essential condition of the future. Design and engineering education are potential catalysts to address many of the global issues facing the planet at this point in time. In pursuit of responsible innovation, we need to transform the current educational paradigms that have been shaped by traditional discipline definitions. In pursuit of such ambitions, it is critical to shift towards a transformative learning model that enables us to create a sustainable and sustainability-focused learning eco-system to foster a culture of reflective and informed innovation. A strong narrative is emerging from the literature around the need to shift from a tradition of disciplinarity to one of increased consideration for transdisciplinarity. Higher Education Institutions need to consider developing more relevant frameworks for co-ordinating and creating new disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to inform both teaching and research. Higher Education is recognised for its focus on the construction and dissemination of knowledge, traditionally through discipline defined ‘silos’ or within ’tribes’. However, this model of disciplinarity is dissolving as an appropriate means of taking on the increasing challenges and complexity of sustainability. Sustainability is singularly the most prevailing and pervasive contemporary question facing Higher Education Institutes now and into the near future. For Higher Education Institutions this involves addressing questions around ‘sustainability of education’ and ‘education for sustainability’. We need to find better ways of constructing and exploiting the knowledge capacity of our Higher Education Institutes. The challenge is to find effective means of crossing discipline boundaries to better exploit existing discipline knowledge in multi- and inter- disciplinary ways with the aspiration to generate an increase in transdisciplinary activity and generate new and appropriate knowledge to address the challenges of the future. This paper aims to critically explore the potential of Transformative Learning Theory as a catalyst for radically transforming the two-dimensional vertical discipline order of higher education and re-orienting it into a three-dimensional transdisciplinary innovation matrix. We need to cultivate transformation in the very way our institutions facilitate and enable the future of learning in an increasingly unstable natural eco-system. Human imagination, creativity and innovation have failed to find adequate solutions to questions of sustainability within the existing paradigm. They have been shackled by the limitations of thought by which siloed knowledge has been constrained. The potential of the collective human imagination, creativity and innovation is vast and capable of enabling us to cohabitate sustainably with all life on our planet. The process of transformative learning involves transforming existing frames of reference through critical reflection of assumptions, validating contested beliefs through discourse, acting on one’s own reflective insights, and critically assessing both context and application. This paper will also draw on narrative case study observations and findings from interventions in a BSc Product Design at Technical University Dublin to consider approaches and methods that can enable transformative learning in a transdisciplinary setting.

Keywords: Innovation, sustainability, transformation, responsible innovation, education


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