Whenever I am not in the field, I  teach undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).I also had the privilege to lecture at The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and The University of Sheffield.

Understand rather than memorise 

Students are our future therefore, I strive to embed in them passion for science and appreciation of the environment by providing high quality of learning environment. This is achieved by a variety of methods as every students is different and every course requires a level of experimentation with teaching to suit everyone's learning needs.

 

However, I believe in establishing a safe space for my students, where we can be open and respectful. Building a sense of trust is essential to allow for inquiry-based learning through discussion, experimentation and independent thinking.

 

I believe students can thrive when given a chance to be independent therefore, I have incorporated research projects and fieldwork into my courses that students design and execute under a helpful eye of lecturers. The level of that independence is adjusted to each student's progression and individual comfort level. Creating independent research-based learning space leaves my students engaged and passionate about their projects, it also increases their performance on the assessment. 

 

Research-based teaching allows me to incorporate social aspect of the local community into my courses. I use this to increase motivation (both external and internal), plant thirst for knowledge and improve development of skills. This is also achieved by peer-to-peer learning where students divided into small groups have pre- and -post fieldwork workshops to share their reflections, knowledge and experience. This technique has proven to increase students' learning leading to understanding of the topics rather than memorising them.  

Finally, since we all tend to thrive when met with positive reinforcement, this practice is always used in my courses to maintain students' curiosity, drive for learning and their further development.  

I like to use experimentation in and with my teaching, because every student is different. and so are their needs to achieve the learning goals. Therefore, I have committed myself to professional development as a teacher. Courses I took with THINK AHEAD, Elevate (Learning and Teaching Academy), TRAM (ILM endorsed management development network), UNIS (Learning Forum), and Development Everywhere  helped me improve my methods throughout the years.

 

As described above, I believe that Kolb's model of experimental learning (1984) still provides the best results for my area of expertise, yet I also like to use other approaches and often reach for methods from educational development such as Cobb and Gravemeijer 2008, Whipple 1929, Freeman et al 2014 or Siwa et al 2018, etc.

My continuous development is also provided by my students through feedback, which I use as part of my reflection upon completed courses and my teaching methods. 

I am also happy to share my knowledge and experiences with my colleagues by taking part in the Learning Forum at UNIS, ISSOTL conferences, iEarth/BioSeed activities, and being active on social groups such as Polar Educators, and Earth Science Women's Network.   

My teaching is primarily focused on but not restricted to Physical Geography:

It centers around ecosystem dynamics, surface and groundwater hydrology, biogeochemistry, glaciology as well as field techniques for physical geographers. I believe in learning via participation in research projects because learning through fieldwork gives students appreciation of natural environments and their complexity.

In addition to classroom and field teaching, I run a range of laboratory ​classes that help students to understand micro-scale processes, broaden their understanding of linkages between biotic and abiotic environments as well as give them practical skills in environmental science that can be applied to a variety of industries outside academia.  

During my classes students gain not only in-depth understanding of the processes occurring in the natural environment, but the necessary skills needed for a career in the private sector.

Feedback from my students:

"Definitively the best course I took during my entire studies (Bachelors and Masters)*

 

"I appreciated a lot of freedom and responsibility we got to collect our own data which motivates a lot and enhances understanding (..)"

"Very impressed by the high standards of the lecturers. Always engaging, and really passionate about the topics offered to us. I give my highest remarks.

Really impressed."

 

"This fieldwork was great... Before we had good preparations,everyone knew what was expected of them. Before and after fieldwork we also did a small briefing everyday. 

We learned so much (..)"

 

"A good balance of lectures, guided (field)work and independent projects was kept, which challenges and increases own

understanding" 

 

"I really liked the emphasis on connecting different aspects of glacial research, as well as combining different methods. It helped me to discover similarities that stretch from previous experience and enabled me to increase my bigger picture of the connected systems"

 

"(..) Another very good aspect was the chance and infrastructure to conduct self-organised field work. That helped so much to teach the organization of field work and research."

 
 
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©Aga Nowak