Pedagogics and technology in the program design – 1: Program design

New technologies have been promising revolution within educational practices for quite a while now. It’s however not by the mere introduction of new technologies into teaching that we will be able to produce a transformative learning environment (Mishra et al. 2009). Instead it is by the facilitated collaboration between students, teachers and others as well as the inspiring interaction with the aspired content knowledge, that the technologies help us get what we want. This blog post will provide a brief pedagogical motivation for the suggested program design and in doing so also discuss ways in which technology can be used to encourage interaction with the content and with relevant people in a meaningful way, that sets the scene for co-creation and sharing knowledge in new ways.
One of the first and main pedagogical methods used in the master program’s design process is the backwards design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) which we use to structure our thoughts about the goals of the program and the means needed to reach the goals.
In the figure below you can see in what way we have started to use the method. We start by identifying what we see the graduates from the program doing in the future, from that we derive what skills and content knowledge they will require. Based on this we get input on what program curricula and pedagogics to use in order for the students to develop those skills and master that content knowledge. The program curricula and pedagogics of the program will inform us on what teacher training and course material that will be needed as well as what student profiles will fit the program and what the recruitment process should be like. Finally this has implications for what profile the potential sites of the program should have, including teachers, facilities, recruitment basis, organisation for master’s education etc.
The backwards design method will again be applied together with the pedagogical course design principle constructive alignment (Biggs 1996) when the courses are designed. Construtive alignment states that the course material, activities, assessment, inteded learning outcomes and purpose of a course should be aligned so that there is no unmotivated mismatch between these different parts of courses. I.e. there should be no discrepancy between what material is being used, the course activites performed, the assessment and what the intended learning outcomes stipulate that the students are expected to be able to do or know after the course.
Together backwards design and constructive alignment helps us focus on both the goals, the way to get there and on making sure that the “way to get there” is guided by assessment that the students have been properly prepared for in a formative way. With “prepared for in a formative way” we refer to having performed activities in which the students get to practice displaying the skills that are going to be assessed in the same format as the examination will finally be in and to have gotten formative feedback on how they fared. The formative feedback should be provided in a way that helps them improve and want to improve their skills and learning (Hattie and Timpereley 2007).
With a structured design process for the over all program as well as the individual courses, including ideas of progression in skills and content knowledge towards later courses in the program, the foundation for constructing a great program are in place. But by also using some of the possibilities that a digital learning environment can offer the fruits of a sophistiacted program design can become visible and enjoyable for more than the few people of the central organising unit. Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate this point.
*) By making the products of the backward design process visible as a spine of the digital learning platforms navigational system – visualisations of what the goals are and the means to get there can be used to continously remind ourselves of what it is we are here to do, for students as well as for teachers. It will help the students feel a sense of direction and progression as  time goes. They will also be able to glance back in order to revisit parts of previous courses relevant to what they’re currently doing or to look ahead to be inspired and learn when their interest for a topic or a skill hits them. Teachers would easily be able to look at what the other courses that are related to his or her course cover, in what way and for what purpose.
 **) It is easy to make visualisations that you can interact with so that you get to see the level of detail that interests or suits you for a specific purpose. Be it, if you want to advertise the program for students or if you want to convince your students or a potential sponser that the program covers different important aspects of climate change and development economics in a strategic way.
Wanted collaboration and interactions facilitated by blended learning
It is truly only by continous collaborative work, combined with individual work, with the challanges at hand and afterwards reflecting about those very processes, of collaborative and individual knowledge building, that students can develop the skills needed to become the kind of “change agents” that the world requires in order to deal with the climate and development challanges of today and tomorrow. To achieve mastery of working together on shared issues with people from different context and to a large fraction through virtual connection only, acknowledging and hands on facing the difficulties as well as opportunities of having different perspectives needs to be a integral part of the program. Impacts of climate change will affect our different societies in very different ways and the solutions to both adaptation and mitigation work will also differ greatly. Yet we’re still sharing, albeit to different degree, a common responsibility for our contribution to the climate forcings behind the current imblance of Earth’s energy balance. The global work that lay ahead, which no individual country or group of countries (that do not include the vast majority of humans societies) can handle on their own (Revesz and Schwartz, forthcoming), will need professionals of tomorrow that have the skills we are suggesting that these master student would acquire.
Technology should be used to make the collaboration possible and to allow the learners to focus on the content, the issues and the dialogue about them. But an equally great challange as to provide the technical aspects of the learning platform is to make the many dimensions of the topics and disciplines covered available, interesting and insightful (Mishra et al. 2009) and last but not least to make the social aspects of the whole experience inclusive, fun, rewarding and empowering. Hinton and Fischer (2010) describes the neurophysical basis for why it is beneficial for a learning situation to be accompanied with postive emotions.
In order to do this, appreciation of both the students and educators’ backgrounds, interests and goals is essential. (This is one of the reasons for the importance of building slow, doing some substantial research on the unique profile of the different sites as well as having significant local anchoring and encouraging the sites to explore what fits them best.) But only when the organising comitté knows how to guide the local educators to become skilled in making this knowledge feed into the pedagogical process of fine tuning the learning experience, are we ready to help ourselves achieve true local anchoring and sustainable local learning environments.
This discussion on the design of the program and it’s different major parts can feel hard to digest or hard to realise what implications it has on the actual course activities, so we will in the twin blog post following this post elaborate on this. The next blog post will discuss the pedagogical motivations behind the suggested master program activities.
Further parts of the program design which we have only mentioned or left out for now are: recruitment process (skype interview + personal letter and CV), introductory/preparatory course, course package(s), potentially a mentorship, internship & field experiments, potential exchange, examination and the final thesis work.
Biggs, John. “Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment.” Higher education 32.3 (1996): 347-364.
Hattie, John, and Helen Timperley. “The power of feedback.” Review of educational research 77.1 (2007): 81-112.
Hinton, Christina, and Kurt W. Fischer. “Learning from the developmental and biological perspective.” The nature of learning (2010): 113.
Mishra, Punya, Matthew J. Koehler, and Kristen Kereluik. “Looking back to the future of educational technology.” TechTrends 53.5 (2009): 49.
Revesz, Richard L., and Jason A. Schwartz. “The social cost of carbon: A global imperative.” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy (accepted for publication)
Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. Understanding by design. Ascd, 2005.

Studying the preconditions of CATIE as a start site

In the beginning of November Sofia and I went for a week to Costa Rica to study the preconditions of CATIE (The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) as a potential start site for the EfD M. Sc program.
The aim of the visit were fivefold:
1. To study preconditions: How similar or different the M.Sc education at CATIE and the planned ideas of the program activities for the EfD program and get a sense for how long time it would take for CATIE to be ready to host the program
2. To develop guidelines: Make instructions on how to study the preconditions of a potential site for the program (using CATIE as a case)
3. To team build: Get to know the people working at with EfD at CATIE and in particular to get to work together with Francisco to be able to align and develop our ideas together
4. To plant seeds: Get the people we meet inspired and motivated to be a part of the creation process
5. To plan ahead: Work on the ”roadmap” plan for the creation of the M.Sc program and prepare meetings for the EfD annual meeting in Chile (the following week)

The first two goals go very much hand in hand and number two mainly dictates that we should be conscious about what we do in point one, document it and reflect about it and potential ways to improve on the work process we used for CATIE as a case site. This blog post will just outline the aspects/parts of the preconditions we studied and say some initial things about why and how we did studied them. The parts are described in the following mind map figure:

Guidlines for preconditions studies


We organized or attended the meetings/sessions in the following order:
A) Workshop with pedagogical & educational staff and coordinators
B) Students meetings
C) Teacher meetings
D) IT support meeting & facilities observation
E) Auscultation of course activities
F) EfD center director (Francisco) meeting
G) Organizing committee meeting

But it should be said that we would have preferred to have had the workshop (A) at a later phase and to have had started with another meeting with the EfD center director (in this case Francisco) in order to get a first presentation of the center and a general start up meeting for the visit.
Before, in between and after (i.e. all around) these meetings we had preparation and reflection sessions Sofia and I with the obvious purposes of being prepared for the meetings but also to work on the guidelines.
I’ll give you examples of the ideas behind the meetings (Why) and the ideas of the design of the meetings (How) for A) and B):

A) Educational workshop
Why: 1 – To discuss the program creation plans and the possible role of the center visited. 2 – To discuss how far off an implementation of the program would be (how hard it is to introduce and or change the curricula, degrees etc). 3 – To plant some seeds (see above).
How: 2 – Inviting people that represent both the educational, pedagogical (if possible) and teaching community that would be affected by a potential introduction of the program and if possible to choose people who are welcoming to curricula development. Presenting the broad picture of the program (vision, objectives, curricula etc) and the process of designing it. Creating an inclusive atmosphere by welcoming everyone to share their perspectives on and contribute to the plans for the program and its creation.

B) Students meetings
Why: To discuss the ideas of the program once it is up and running (plus to some extent the creation plans). Particularly what they think about the aim of the program, aspects of global collaboration in the program, what would make it attractive in their eyes and what possible worries they can identify. But also to understand how close or far from the planned teaching the current teaching techniques and activities their current studies are.
How: Presenting the broad picture of the program (vision, objectives, curricula etc) and briefly the process of creating it. Creating an inclusive atmosphere by inviting everyone (preferably a couple of students together per meeting) to share their perspectives on the plans for the program and its creation through a series of discussion points and questions.
All in all, by these different meetings we hope to get insights from (as well as information regarding) the most central perspectives of essence for developing the master program at a certain site. Other important perspectives such as that of potential employers of the graduates from the program will also be studied in the near future.

Analys av ledarskapsstilar

Gunnar och Thomas är bägge skapare till EfD nätverket och eftersom de båda fortfarande spelar centrala roller i organisationen har jag här reflekterat kring deras olika ledarskapsstilar.

Både Thomas och Gunnar är autentiska ledare i avseendet att de inte varit vidare medvetna om, eller ivf inte strategiska i, hur de bedrivit sina ledarskap samtidigt som de uppfattas av andra som inspirerande ledare som lyfter sina medarbetare till att kunna nå sin fulla potential. Detta gör de genom att vara trogna mot sig själv och sina egna värderingar och övertygelser vilket också uttrycker sig i deras handlingar i enlighet med forskning om autentiskt ledarskap (Shamir och Eilam 2005). Själva talar de om miljöaktivism och en tilltro till att en grupp blir starkare om alla får utveckla sina egna (olika) kvalitéer, dvs självförverkliga sig, samt om att ha höga förväntningar på varandra (och sig själva?).
Vid sidan av att vara “autentiska ledare” tycker jag att det verkar som att Thomas har bedrivit mer av ett transformativt ledarskap (Elmholdt et al 2015) medans Gunnar verkar ha en naturlig talang för ett aningen mer känslomässigt intelligent ledarskap.

Jag tänker bland annat på hur Gunnar använder sitt kroppsspråk väldigt effektivt för att signalera vilken stämning han vill sprida; allt ifrån värme och “mysgemenskap” med ett gigantiskt leende, kisande ögon, utsträckta armar och ett nästan fnittrande tonläge till ett stort allvar och stora förväntningar genom att slappna av ansiktsmusklerna, en långsam och neutral pose, en allvarlig/nästan skärande blick och ett mycket deklararerande och monoton röstläge (Goleman .fl. 2002 enligt Elmholdt et al 2015). Hade Gunnar varit beräknande och strategisk med detta så hade begreppet “hård empati”, förmågan hos inspirerande känslomässigt intelligenta ledare att koppla samman det empatiska med det realistiskt strategiska (Goffee & Jones 2000) legat nära till hands att tala om angående delar av Gunnars ledarskapsstil och Gunnars beskrivning av de hårda förväntningarna och signaleringen av dessa gällande att SIDA-doktoranderna förväntades flytta tillbaka till sina länder efter sin avhandling och jobba vidare där för att bidra till det lokala kompetensbyggandet i linje med biståndstanken. Men mycket av detta verkar vara internaliserade ledarskapsfärdigheter och hans ledarskap skulle kanske kunna rubriceras som “intuitivt känslomässigt intelligent” eller likn. för att poängtera att Gunnar inte medvetet utnyttjar dessa strategier i sitt ledarskap vilket en ledarskapskonsult som iakttar Gunnar ev. skulle förespråka att han skulle göra (Elmholdt et al. 2015) eftersom han verkar ha en naturlig fallenhet för att väcka och arbeta med känslor.

Till och med en visuell inspektion av Gunnars rum visar hur mötet, kring det runda bordet, har en central plats och hur det är viktigt att skapa samsyn kring gemensamma projekt (med hjälp av projektorn).

Gunnars kontor

Thomas däremot, enligt Gunnar och även mina egna observationer, uppfyller Bass (1996) kriterier på ett transformativt ledarskap:
*att tydliggöra arbetets betydelse – (miljöaktivismen-rädda världen idealismen), bland annat genom att både tala om betydelsen av forskning och hur den kan användas för att hantera olika miljöproblem. Valet av det miljöekonomiska tvärdiciplinära området, snarare än ett enbart naturvetenskapligt angreppssätt handlar om att samtidigt koppla miljöproblem till de ramar som våra samhällen, vi människor och vårt beteende dikterar, vilket ekonomin ämnar att beskriva).
*att själv föregå med gott exempel och att uppfordra till att sätta teamets och organisationens intressen före egna intressen – Han har arbetat mycket, har jobbet som en av sina hobbies som han talar om med brinnande intresse och dessutom har han spenderat en stor del av sin tid åt att handleda och undervisa – och på så sätt satt teamet först. Teamet har primärt varit den miljöekonomiska forskningsenhet han byggt upp (från grunden) tillsammans med kollegor tillika föredetta doktorander: bland annat Gunnar, Anders, Olof, Fredrik osv. Men över tid har det via det SIDA finanserade doktorandprogrammet blivit EfD och ett kandidatprogram: samhällsvetenskaplig miljövetarlinje (SMIL).

Även Thomas fokus på forskningen kan skönjas genom en visuell inspektion av  av hans kontor som är totalt belamrat av kunskap från fågel till fisk, men även här finns en mötesplats om än primärt avsett för två personer; handledaren och doktoranden. I den söndersuttna soffa har många doktorander suttit och fått handledning genom åren. Dessa doktoranders närvaro har förevigats i skåpet mittemot soffan där de har varsin gul avhandling som Thomas har som ett stolt bevis på det centrala arbetet som handledningen har haft för Thomas och den miljöekonomiska enheten.

Thomas kontor

I Elmholdt et al (2015) talar de om vikten av att ha ledare och administratörer (eller snarare personer som tar ansvar för de två olika typerna av ledande och administrativa processer, detta kan ju vara samma eller flera olika personer) för att få en välfungerande organisation!
Thomas och Gunnar har delvis delat upp ledarskaps och administrativa uppgifter så att Thomas har haft den större delen av de ledande i början och Gunnar har haft det huvudsakliga ansvaret för administrationen, struktur, mötena, uppföljning osv. Som jag har uppfattat det så så har Gunnar med tiden delegerat mer och mer av att dessa uppgifter till andra personer och på så sätt kunnat fokusera mer på visionära frågor coachning av personer i nätverket osv.

Jag kommer att återkomma till flera aspekter av det ledarskap som utövas i EfD i blogginlägg framöver.

The design of the program

The global master’s program I gave the background to in the first blog post is planned to be hosted at several (in the long run maybe as many as 10) different sites around the globe. Creating a joint (or collaborative) master’s program has many pros and cons depending on how it is implemented and run. One of the main ideas EfD has is to make the expertise of the worlds leading researchers in the covered fields available to and packaged for new categories of students. Students who normally wouldn’t be able to get an education with courses that these so called “global professors” give. But a con can be that it may be difficult for a “global professor” to produce course material at the right level when the students have such varying backgrounds and they do not get to meet or know their students to calibrate their teaching material in an interplay with them. To deal with this issue I find the idea of creating a board of student representatives interesting. This board, if chosen based on professors prior experience of the students being helpful in developing their courses/teaching, could work as a sounding board for the project group(s) that develop the course material. The plan is also for the first pilot courses to be thoroughly tested, evaluated and developed until there is confidence in EfD producing the full set of courses.

One strength (amongst many) of the program is the possibility to get many great minds to contribute to the production and finetuning of  each part of the program curricula and course material.

The program activities (including course material production) has been visualised in the following illustration produced mainly by Sofia Toivonen and Erik Sterner with inputs from Francisco Alpizar, Gunnar Köhlin, Maria Damon and others.

Program activities
The different steps (marked with encircled orange numbers) in the overview of program activities are as follows:
1) Production of course material, can be done for example via video recordings of mini-lectures and preparation of written material. Professors and tech. support are mainly involved here (although the student repr. board could preferably have a student or two that follow and give feedback on this part of creating the course material.
2) The course material that introduces. new topics, methods etc. is packaged and complementary material such as quizzes, forums and hand-ins with the help of tech support and teaching assitants.
3) Students interact with the course content that is put on the online learning platform and thereby prepare for class.
4) Before a course on campus activity the local prof. responsible for the course at a site assess the students performance and input in order to calibrate and adjut the course activity introduction, exercises etc to fit her students current learning progression and other input when suitable (such as their areas of interest).
5) During the on campus in class sessions the students typically perform some kind of active learning activity lead by the local prof. (and or teaching assistants). Examples of activitities are seminars, role play, games, modelling tutorials.
6) In parallell to the learning activities that take place on campus, and the preparations for them, students collaborate with their global classmates in continues sets of mini-projects, in which they either work together or interact by giving feedback to each other, as well as discussion forums.
7) In order to get to know the stakeholders/power agents of the climate change and development arena(s) several courses also contain field trips and short internships or experiments during which the students get first hand experiences of example environments of importance for their potential future work.
(8) The program of course has an ambitious and well designed assessment and examination program.

In a future blog post I will mention more strengths of the program and elaborate on the parts of the program, described above, and the type of learning theories that motivate the design and choice of them.

Bye for now =)

EfD’s creation of a global master’s program

The environment for development initiative (EfD) is a global network of research institutions around the world which work with environmental economics. I am mainly going to be at the Gothenburg centres which is also the centerpiece of the network which was created in 2007 and currently consists of about ten centres. The centres are located at institutions in Central America, Chile, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania and USA and a few recent partners are located in India, Vietnam and Colombia.

The initiative focuses on capacity building in environmental economics with regards to research, policy advice, phd program and university education. In order to facilitated sharing of experiences and collaborations of different kind, EfD hosts an annual meeting at alternating places (i.e. the different centres take turns hosting the event).
EfD has mainly been funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). For more information on EfD see Fortsätt läsa EfD’s creation of a global master’s program