Avit Bhowmik | I care for climate and environment

Teaching Portfolio

This teaching portfolio for Avit K. Bhowmik is being developed to fulfill the requirements of Teaching in Higher Education 2 (AUPU2) course at Karlstad University, Sweden. Below is a preliminary brief outline of the portfolio constituting sections that will be continuously elaborated.

  • Core Area 1: Course background and context
    • Course setup
    • Budget
    • Learners' profile
      • Age and experience of learners
      • Intended learning outcomes
  • Core Area 2: Problem analysis
    • A review of the existing course plan and syllabus
    • Quality assurance and legislation in higher education in Sweden
    • Expectation from the field
  • Core Area 3: Horizon scan and evaluation
    • Pedagogical research
    • Experience of alternatives as a teacher
    • Reflection diary
  • Core Area 4: A pedagogical strategy
  • Visible results and future plans

Teaching context

I have joined as an Assistant Professor of Risk and Environmental Studies at Karlstad University in March 2019. I have been teaching Geographic Information System, Environmental Risks, Climate Change and Sustainability related courses at German and Swedish universities since 2012. I have already obtained formal pedagogical training from the “Higher Education Teaching Centre” of University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany in 2013. I have also completed the supervision of five master’s and diploma theses, and one Ph.D. thesis, and currently supervising one Ph.D. thesis. I am one of the core organisers of four summer schools on “Spatial Ecotoxicology” supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and one workshop on “Spatial Ecology” in the 9th Symposium for European Freshwater Sciences (SEFS).

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My teaching philosophy is "problem-based learning". I encourage students to understand and analyse the problem in depth before delving into solutions. I design my teaching activities relying on Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO), but also with a focus on developing critical thinking among students. I try to update my teaching practice and content according to modern theories of teaching in higher education and follow up-to-date pedagogic literature for the purpose. My teaching activities promote course materials, exercises, and focus on continuous feedback and enabling communication and cooperation among course participants. In essence, now I am in between a lecturer and facilitator in my classrooms but aim to become a complete facilitator in my teaching career.

Problem statement

As a working case for this portfolio, I select the course Nordic Climate Change Studies (CCGA08). I taught this course for the first time during the autumn semester of 2019. The course is mainly designed for the exchange students from LĂźneburg University, Germany but I received students from all over the world including students from other study programs at Karlstad University. The age group of the students is around 25 years and their level of current education ranged from bachelor's to master's.

The problem I would like to address in this portfolio regarding the CCGA08 course is:

The learning outcomes don't deliver ability

I had a great set of collaborative students in the classroom, who engaged into intriguing discussion and brought in novel input to the final essay as a fulfillment of the course. However, during the presentation of the essay, when I asked them: "How would you apply what you learned in this course to transform your peers into sustainability and mitigate climate change in your context?", there was no satisfactory answer. This shows me something along the process went terribly long. With my six years' experience of working in the climate change and climate mitigation field, I realized that the absolute urgent thing needed is individual climate action. I designed this course with the liberty I was given to deliver this ability among the students. I included output of my own research work and continuously emphasized the need for climate action. However, although students' knowledge of climate change and mitigation substantially improved after the course, the ability to act was absent.

Aim: a pedagogical strategy

I aim to design a constructive alignment for the course in this portfolio that will deliver ability of climate action among the students. I intend to develop a pedagogical strategy that will include students' ability at the core of the design and plan. The strategy, as you see in the figure below, will include a revised set of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) and examination criteria, an extended profile of learners and organisational setup, which will be combined in a systematic flow to produce the aimed pedagogical strategy.

Grid Image Image taken by Avit Bhowmik during the AUPU2 session on 6 February 2020.

Work flow and content

Below is a drat outline of the work flow that will be required to reach the aim. The outlined sequences of work will be followed throughout and the results will be presented in details following the sections and subsections. The documents and other materials that will be included are also indicated.

Resources and difficulties

The core persons to help in these process are the experienced sustainability and climate teachers, primarily in Karlstad University but also in other universities around the world. Their view on how to materialize a course to enable climate action among students would be valuable. Environmental educators are the primary experts in this field and can provide valuable input. Experts in the climate mitigation field and my own research can provide knowledge on what needed and demanded in the practical world. The director of studies on my discipline can help putting this effort into the organisational context.

The inherently difficult part of the whole activity is to identify and apply proper ILO, teaching activities and assessments method that deliver and evaluate students' ability on climate action. When ability may refer to intellectual ability of analysing, explaining, interpreting and communicating climate action, which almost all students in the previous session acquired, the target of this portfolio is to provide the hands-on ability in the field. As a scientist and non-practitioner, it will be likely difficult for me to conceptualize and design a proper strategy. I plan to overcome this through consultations with experienced environmental educators and practitioners, and comparing my strategy with other strategies (if available) successful in providing action.

One crucial aspect of the whole process is the design of the excursions, which are a strong manner of involving the students in hands-on activities.

I expect continuous guidance and feedback from the course leader during the strategy development process. Formal knowledge on the procedure of developing constructive alignment would be useful, which I could also potentially apply in other courses. Input from participants from disciplines dealing with practical education, e.g. engineering, on how they interface classroom and practical field would be valuable.