Future of the Finnish engineering education : a collaborative stakeholder approach

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Perustieteiden korkeakoulu | Doctoral thesis (monograph)
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Verkkokirja (3839 KB, 317 s.)
The dissertation sheds light on how to develop the Finnish engineering education to face the anticipated challenges of the future based primarily on the views of the key stakeholders. The research questions are: What kind of a framework can be developed for selecting participants for a group communication process of key stakeholders when aiming at capturing future prospects and enhancing development of engineering education nationally, in this case in the context of Finland (RQ 1)? What are the future prospects and development proposals for the Finnish engineering education based on the views of the key stakeholders on the past, present and future, as well as literature and statistics describing the long-term development and present (RQ 2)? The study can be regarded as a strategic prospective foresight study, the subsequent focus being on option and commitment reasonability. The primary sources of knowledge are three stakeholder group communication processes: an anonymous Argument Delphi, an Open Futures Search event, and the work process of the National Collaboration Group for the Finnish Engineering Education. The theoretical discussion for developing the participant selection framework consists of stakeholder concept and identification, creation of knowledge, and member and group characteristics. By combining this with empirical experiences gathered during stakeholder processes, the researcher develops a framework for participant selection. The key findings of the study regarding future prospects of the Finnish engineering education and key proposals for action are summarized in eight statements. The researcher argues that the most severe skills shortages of engineering graduates compared to future needs are in collaborative learning skills. The study contains a proposal for a conceptual model for enhancing the collaborative learning skills of graduates. The study suggests that face-to-face group communication has potential for providing several benefits over anonymous group communication in futures studies. The researcher claims that the most important advantage is the possibility to mobilize both individual- and collective-driven social learning cycles through face-to-face dialogue that enables grasping of tacit knowledge, and through presencing the emerging self-transcending knowledge. However, because of the problem of groupthink, the researcher maintains that anonymous group communication is a useful additional tool in initiating change and bringing potentially conflicting and delicate issues up to discussion, and thereby improving identification of different options for the future. The research contribution of the study is three-fold. First, the results of the study have high practical value for the development of the Finnish engineering education. Second, the framework developed for participant selection and the experiences gathered during the three group communication processes with stakeholders, are useful in developing engineering education also outside Finland. Third, the researcher contributes to the development of futures research methodologies by discussing the differences in knowledge creation between anonymous and face-to-face group communication methodologies.
Supervising professor
Lillrank, Paul, Prof.
Thesis advisor
Kuusi, Osmo, Dr.
engineering education, future prospects, stakeholders, collaborative learning, group communication
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