Reflection at the University of Twente
With the introduction of the Twente Educational Model, the University of Twente has given a unique shape to academic reflection in its programmes. By integrating reflection on science, technology, and society in modules and projects, rather than offering it as a separate set of courses, the University of Twente goes much further than many other universities in terms of integration and connection to actual issues within specific disciplines and fields. For Twente academics, reflection on science, technology, and society belongs to their central competences and is fully integrated in their academic training.
REflection on Science Technology and Society (RESTS)
The University Board has requested the departments of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies (STEPS) and Philosophy to develop and teach courses in REflection on Science Technology and Society (RESTS). These two departments have a strong, international reputation in philosophy of technology and in Science and Technology Studies. Between 2013 and 2015, these courses have been developed, in close communication between the Bachelor programmes and the RESTS groups. An integrative approach was followed, connecting RESTS elements closely to the content of the programmes, and raising reflexive questions ‘from within’, as a natural element of the work in a specific field.
The strength of the Twente approach is precisely in this close connection between education in academic reflection and the discipline-specific content of the programmes. Rather than offering generic courses in history, sociology, philosophy or ethics, the University of Twente chooses to use the concrete content of the individual programmes as a starting point and a basis to build upon.
Courses include the ethics of dealing with risk in engineering projects; reflection on the implications of interdisciplinary cooperation and on the quality of design research; the history and foundations of specific fields like mathematics, physics, and chemistry; value sensitive design; governance of innovation processes; reflection on participating in societal discussions about the risks and opportunities of new technologies – just to mention a few examples.
In all RESTS education, three foci can be distinguished, connecting to the three O’s that have a central place in Twente education: science (connecting to ‘onderzoeken’ / ‘research’), technology (connecting to ‘ontwerpen’ / ‘design’), and society (connecting to ‘organiseren’ / ‘organization’).
- Reflection on science typically takes shape in the philosophy and history of science. Also science communication (interaction between science and society) and science policy are part of this type of reflection. Other interesting subjects: quality of research, paradigms and uncertainty, integrity, interdisciplinarity, the scientific character of design research.
- Reflection on technology takes shape in the history and philosophy of technology. The focus is on the interaction between technology development on the one hand and societal implications on the other. Interesting topics: human-technology relations; philosophy and ethics of design, script analysis, constructive technology assessment, history of technology, technology and democracy.
- Reflection on society is primarily focused on the ethics of technology, professional responsibility, and governance of technology. Twente programmes teach students to identify and address the ethical questions in their professional practice, and to understand and engage in policy-making regarding science and technology.