Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Creativity: How do the cross-cutting themes affect your teaching at Aalto University?

Aalto University graduates need sustainability, entrepreneurship and creativity competencies for shaping a sustainable future. The Aalto Co-Educator team can collaborate with you to integrate these topics in your course or curriculum.
Picture: Unto Rautio
Photo: Aalto University / Unto Rautio

With the increasing need to tackle complex and global issues, one might ask: how can we, as educators, facilitate the building of competencies to support Aalto graduates as future professionals and citizens?

“Schools can prepare them [students] for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated. It will be a shared responsibility to seize opportunities and solutions.” – from OECD's Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 Position Paper (05.04.2018)

Aalto University has set the goal to shape a sustainable future. From this, three cross-cutting themes emerged providing a basis for tools and competencies to tackle complex and global challenges: Solutions for Sustainability, Entrepreneurial Mindset and Radical Creativity.

Elina Kähkönen

"We have seen that students are absorbing sustainability-related challenges from the world all the time, and the reactions to the challenges can be very different. In my opinion, Aalto University's duty would be to give students tools to tackle these challenges in positive ways and to see them with a hopeful, active and can-do attitude. This includes providing students with relevant knowledge to understand what the underlying situation and challenge are at large, and what their role is even though it might be small, and ultimately formulate solutions, test them and put them into practice."

Elina Kähkönen, Project Lead, Aalto Co-Educator

Developing a course or curriculum that builds competencies in sustainability, entrepreneurship, and creativity is definitely not easy. This is why the Aalto Co-Educator (ACE) team was established, to enable the development of curricula and courses that include learning approaches from the three cross-cutting themes. As said by one of the members of the team, integrating sustainability has been appreciated by teaching staff at Aalto University.

Noora Jaakkola

"Systems thinking, anticipatory thinking and values thinking. These are all sustainability competencies, which is an interesting area of research, and I think it is useful for higher education, useful for when we think about how to develop our teaching. Many of our teachers have found these sustainability competencies to be beneficial and inspiring, in how to integrate sustainability into teaching. I think that it is a quite useful framework."

Noora Jakkola, Curriculum Development, Aalto Co-Educator

The Aalto Co-Educator team collaborates with programme directors and teaching faculty members in the integration of meaningful learning approaches and goals into existing programmes and courses. Workshops are conducted to understand and implement the three cross-cutting themes in a way that is relevant to the course or programme. To facilitate this work, the Aalto Co-Educator team drafted a competency integration framework (figure 1) as a start towards building connections between the themes and to provide structure when integrating them. In addition to the theme-specific competencies, teaching that develops students’ problem solving and teamwork skills and supports their personal development and self-awareness, is relevant for all the cross-cutting themes.

Competency Integration Framework
Figure 1. Draft of the competency integration framework for the three cross-cutting themes.

You may have noticed that the theme-specific competencies do not exclusively fall under Solutions for Sustainability, Entrepreneurial Mindset or Radical Creativity. Neither are these competencies unrelated to each other. To reflect this, the competency integration framework has been further developed by the team to create merged intended learning objectives (table 1) which draw from the three cross-cutting themes. Both the competency integration framework and the intended learning objectives are continuously revised.


Table 1. Cross-cutting themes as learning objectives.

Understanding and addressing sustainability-related challenges  

Knowledge on sustainability-related challenges and their systemic nature. Ability to contribute with one’s field specific expertise to shaping a sustainable future.

Driving for viable solutions to complex challenges 

Ability to identify challenges, ideate, experiment and implement feasible, user-centric interventions. Capability, courage and perseverance for acting in an environment of risks and uncertainty.

Nurturing creativity in teams and individually 

Ability to provide alternative framings and seek for novel perspectives. Ability to participate in and facilitate creative processes and to collaborate across disciplines.

Meeri Karvinen

Meeri Karvinen, Solutions for Sustainability expert with the Aalto Co-Educator team, describes the relationship between the three cross-cutting themes as: “I see radical creativity and entrepreneurial mindset as a way to 'do' sustainability, and that’s why they are a very innovative and excellent combination, these three themes. If we look at sustainability education research, the message is that sustainability should be implemented exactly through open-minded innovative experiments, not being afraid of trying new things and new approaches, and working with different people.”

If integrating the three cross-cutting themes is a challenge you are facing or are willing to take on, get in touch with the Aalto Co-Educator team at [email protected] – we would love to work with you!

Aalto Co-Educator team (ACE)

All Aalto graduates should have the capability to analyse and tackle complex sustainability challenges especially related to their own field, and to grasp opportunities for making a change.

Students sitting around a table with laptops and discussing.

Solutions for sustainability

We help solve grand challenges in and across our key areas.

Solutions for sustainability illustration inspired by art piece called Hidaka Ohmu by Julia Lohmann, illustration by Anna Muchenikova

Entrepreneurial mindset

We foster an inspiring entrepreneurial culture.

Entrepreneurial mindset themed illustration showing a robotic hand, illustration by Anna Muchenicova

Radical creativity

We build an outstanding creative community for new thinking.

Radical creativity illustration: Anna Muchenikova
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