The end of the beginning

This is my last post in this blog and I thought I would start the post by summing up what I’ve been doing during my time at EfD. So, during my 8 weeks here I (together with Erik) have been:

  • traveling to Costa Rica
    • studying the preconditions for CATIE being a potential start site for the M.Sc. program
    • having meetings with students at CATIE
    • having meetings with teachers at CATIE
    • having meetings with the IT support at CATIE
    • having a workshop with some of the staff at CATIE
    • auscultating lectures at CATIE
  • having several meetings with Gunnar and Francisco (the initial brains behind the idea of the global M.Sc. program) about the M.Sc. program
  • having meetings with Gunnar, Francisco and Thomas about leadership and how they handle it at EfD
  • having meetings with teaching assistants at EfD
  • creating illustrations that EfD can use in their future work with the new program:
    • the illustration of the EfD studies
    • the illustration of backwards design
    • the illustration of the road map for the creation of the program
  • starting to create guidelines for how to study the preconditions of a potential start site for the M.Sc. program
  • having a seminar as a part of the handover to EfD.

As you can see there is a lot you can do in only 8 weeks! I’ve learnt very much during my time at EfD, I’ve seen many new places and I’ve come to know many knew friends (even some across the Atlantic). What’s really good is that I’ve also felt that I’ve had use for several things that I’ve learnt from my master program Lärande och ledarskap. For example, as you read in my previous post, I’ve used backwards design when discussing and thinking about the global M.Sc. program.

Since we’ve also discussed the teaching within the program (especially blended learning and flipped classroom) I’ve also had use of all of the pedagogics and learning models that we’ve talked about in the courses Analysera lärande and Naturvetenskapligt och tekniskt lärande 1 & 2 and that I’ve also experienced during my earlier internships at upper secondary schools. During these earlier internships I’ve learnt to observe and reflect a lot by auscultating other people’s and my own way of teaching and leading. This has been very useful, especially during the time in Costa Rica where we studied the preconditions of CATIE being a potential start site for the global M.Sc. program by for example auscultating lectures and seminars.

The creation of the global M.Sc. program can be described as a very big project, and therefore I’ve also had use for some of the project management that we’ve read in the courses Learning and leading in dysfunctional organizations and Utvecklingsprojekt i praktiken. These courses have helped me to better understand some of the things that has been happening within this big project. An example of this can be seen in my second post where I used the iron triangle to describe the trade-offs between time, cost and quality that’s been made when planning the creation of the program.

I’m quite sure that I’ve missed some things, but as you can see there is a lot from the program Lärande och ledarskap that I’ve had use of during my internship at EfD. In fact, the whole program Lärande och ledarskap has been an inspiration for me and Erik when discussing and thinking about the creation of this new program, especially since EfD wants to integrate leadership in the global M.Sc. program.

I think that I’ve developed during my internship at EfD, especially when it comes to making visualizations and conceptual models. I believe and hope that the illustrations I’ve made will be of use for EfD in the future.

And now, I’d like to end this post by sending the biggest thanks and hugs to all of the people I’ve met at EfD. I wish you all the best of luck with the creation of the global M.Sc. program. It’s been very cool to be a part of something so big and important. It’s also nice to feel that the end of my internship isn’t really an end, it’s the beginning of a very big project and I am very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the first steps on this long journey.

Backwards design

I don’t know how many times this idea of creating a global M.Sc. program of climate change and economics has struck me as brilliantly awesome and super-duper needed. But on the other hand, there are a lot of times I’ve also been overwhelmed by the whole idea since it’s so very big and complex. How on earth do you even know how to start thinking?
I tell you how – by using backwards design!

The fine thing about backwards design is that you’re focusing on your goals when creating your path. By doing so, you make sure that the steps you take along the way are heading in the right direction. The idea of this type of design is that, instead of first thinking about what you should do next, you start to think about the goal of your destination. So, you start with the end, the desired result, and then go backwards, “what has to be done to reach the desired result?”, and then “what has to be done to be able to do what has to be done to reach the desired result?” and so on (McTighe, 1998, What is backwards design).

I was introduced to this method in the course Naturvetenskapligt och tekniskt lärande 1 almost a year ago now. Back then, we were to use backwards design when practicing to plan an outline for a secondary course. One of the differences between then and now is that when planning the outline for the secondary course we could base the goal of the destination on already existing course curricula. When designing the global M.Sc. program we have started with discussing what the future graduates are to be doing after reading this program and then working our way backwards. An illustration of this (made by me together with inputs from Erik and others at EfD) can be seen below.
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The figure illustrates the backwards design by having the arrows pointing in one direction and the footsteps in another. When talking about the design of the M.Sc. program we have first discussed the future graduates in action after reading this program, working as climate change negotiators etc. For the students to be able to work with this we have discussed what type of knowledge and skill sets it requires. This lead to discussions about the content in the program curricula and what pedagogics to use in the program. In turn, this lead to discussions about what profile the admitted students should have, what course material to produce and how the teachers are to be trained.

This way of thinking backwards isn’t helpful only when it comes to designing courses and/or global M.Sc. programs. In the course Problem-solving and education we were introduced to several problem-solving strategies and the strategy “working backwards” was one of them. This strategy works as it sounds, you solve the problem by going from B to A instead of going from A to B (Posamentier et al., 2008, Problem-Solving Strategies for Efficient and Elegant Solutions). The strategy is efficient when solving everyday problems as well as mathematical problems, whether big or small.

I would like to end with a quote that sums up this post quite well.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.
(Covey, 1989, The 7 habits of highly effective people)

The M.Sc. program activities

In this week’s post I’m going to write and reflect on the basis of an illustration of the EfD studies, which can be seen below. This illustration has mainly been done by me and Erik Sterner together with inputs from others at EfD.

As you can see, the illustration is divided into two parts – PhD activities and M.Sc. program activities. The PhD activities are a chain of steps which covers the life of a PhD (you could say that these are the stories that already have happened and are happening at EfD). The part that covers the M.Sc. program activities is what I and Erik have been focusing on during our time at EfD. This chain of activities is quite complex and hard to grasp and therefore I and Erik came up with the idea of visualizing it. So, the idea behind the making of an illustration is to help the viewer grasp the whole picture of the different steps in the M.Sc. program. I think this kind of visualizing can benefit not only EfD, but many other organisations as well. It’s a good way of getting people to reach some kind of understanding regardless of how well conversant they are in a specific material that you want to present.

I also want to add that when we started to make this illustration it only contained figures and no text. But then I remembered some feedback I got from the examiner during my internship at GTG (Göteborgs tekniska gymnasium). During a class, I used an illustration to demonstrate the different industrial revolutions through the ages. This illustration only consisted of a diagram with different visualizations for the different industrial revolutions. Afterwards, I got feedback that a few words for each industrial revolution would have made the illustration much more informative. So, thank you Sheila (the examiner who gave me the feedback) for your comments on that! Your words helped me when making the illustration for EfD.

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For now (the illustration is most probably going to continue to develop), there is 9 steps in the illustration of the M.Sc. program activities. I will go through the 9 steps one at a time and also reflect a bit along way. But before I move on to that I just want to give a short explanation of the different roles seen in the illustration of the program activities:

  • The global professor – one of the aim with this program is to get the world’s top leading researchers in the covered fields to contribute
  • The local professor – the professor at the actual site that holds the course/courses and makes sure that the content in the course/courses is locally anchored.
  • The teaching assistant – helps the local professor and can for example be a PhD student at a specific site
  • The student – students in this M.Sc. program at the different sites
  • The tech support – helps out with the digital stuff, such as recording and preparing videos, the learning platform etc.

Now, an explanation for each of the 9 steps:

1.  In the first step course material is being produced, which is illustrated by a video recording of a global or local professor with the help from tech support.

2. Different types of course material, e.g. videos, reading materials, hand-ins etc. This is going to be a mix of global joint material (the videos with the global professors, quizzes etc.) and locally anchored material so that the course content fits both in the global context and the local context of the different sites. 

3. The preparation material (as well as the rest of the course material) is put on the online learning platform, which the students use to get prepared for class. For example, the students can prepare by first watching a video and then do a complementary quiz.

4. Before the upcoming class session, the local professor and the teaching assistant can see how well the students have been preparing and performing on the online learning platform and are able to adapt the session accordingly. 

5. The class sessions take place at the different sites across the world. During these the students are to consolidate their knowledge mainly through active learning, e.g. during discussions, presentations and group exercises etc.  

6. Global collaboration between the students from the different sites across the world. This is an opportunity for the students to share knowledge, perspectives and cultures with each other, which is in line with Dewey’s thoughts about school being a community and not a place where students only are to work isolated with individual tasks (Phillips et al., 2014, Perspektiv på lärande). Instead, Dewey argued that real learning comes from purposive activities in social contexts. With this, I think Dewey meant that real learning is when you acquire knowledge that is going to be with you for a long time and that is put into an actual context.

7. Students are going on field trips and having internships to get experiences from real life. This fits well into the concept of “learning by doing”, a phrase that was coined by Dewey who argued that learning takes place when your facing a real problem (Phillips et al., 2014, Perspektiv på lärande). 

8. The assessment and examination of the program, illustrated as a student presenting his or her master thesis work.

9. Students graduate all across the world.

The EfD family

In this post I will write about the leadership and the approach to leadership at EfD, but first I will provide a brief description of the organisation. EfD consists of two decision-making groups, the EfD Coordinating Committee and the EfD Research Committee, and an implementing group, the EfD Secretariat. The focus for the Coordinating Committee is to oversee the overall planning, while the Research committee focuses on providing academic and strategic guidance.

My thoughts on leadership at EfD are based on what I’ve seen so far during my internship and are also based on meetings that I and Erik Sterner have had together with Gunnar (director of the EfD Secretariat, member of the Coordinating Committee and founding-member of EfD), Francisco (Director of CATIE and member of the Coordinating Committee) and Thomas (Member of the Coordinating Committee, the Research Committee and the EfD Secretariat and also founding-member of EfD). At these meetings we have discussed different aspects regarding leadership.

During the meetings with Gunnar and Thomas, both of them were saying that their way of leading comes from experiences, good intuition and internalised values. Both of them also said that good leadership (within EfD) is when you find a balance between sharing responsibility with others and being executive when needed. This can be clarified by an example: the Secretariat works a lot with coaching the different teaching centers on how to create well-functioning academic environments and how to deal with the different types of difficulties that they are facing. But some of the centers want to put the problems, and the responsibility to solve them, into the hands of the EfD Secretariat instead of dealing with it themselves. The Secretariat often handle this by handing back the responsibility together with som guidance. The goal with this is to empower the teaching centers.

I would say that both Gunnar and Thomas, who together founded the EfD network, are authentic leaders. An authentic leader can be described as a leader who has faith in her- or himself and who in that way creates trust among the followers. This type of leader works on creating open, honest and trustful relationships towards the followers, who often share the same values as the leader (Elmholdt et al., 2015, Ledarskapets psykologi). During the meetings with Gunnar and Thomas one could tell that the discussions woke a lot of emotions, which I think confirms that their way of leading goes hand in hand with their values – a typical sign of authentic leadership.

I think this type of leadership suits this organisation in particular. Why? Based on what’s been said during the meetings we’ve had together with Gunnar and Thomas, there is no distinct strategy on how to lead and how to manage leadership at EfD and they don’t have a system for how to evaluate their leadership. Instead of having a distinct leadership strategy, the organisation is built on shared goals and a shared vision. EfD has been born out of a kind of environmental activism which goes hand in hand with this way of thinking.

The other day it hit me that EfD fits very well into one of the cultures of organisations that Maylor writes about, namely the culture that he calls “Athena” (Maylor, 2010, Project Management). The Athena culture is described as being a creative and dynamic environment, where the members are highly qualified people that are gathered with a common purpose. So instead of having a strategic way of leading, one of the strengths within EfD is that the members are united by a common vision which also brings them forward.

This culture can of course be hard to deal with at some times, for example when an organisation gets new members. Right now, EfD has just expanded globally and I can only imagine that it must be a lot of work to really include the new sites in the network and in their culture.

One good thing though, which to me is the core of the EfD network and which I think come from the Athena culture, is inclusiveness. You can really tell that they have a great fellowship at EfD, which is why many stay within the organisation for a long time (this I’ve heard several people say during my time here). At some points I’ve also heard the words “the EfD family” being used, which I think suits the feeling within the organisation.

“When do we start?” – meetings with students and teachers in Costa Rica

In today’s post I will write about the meetings I and Erik Sterner had together with students and teachers at CATIE in Costa Rica. In total, we met with two students and two teachers, which is a decent number considering the short amount of time we had.

We talked to both of the students at the same time during one meeting. This we did to get rid of the “interviewing feeling” and to make them feel more comfortable. In this case I think it was the right way to go, since both of them seemed a bit nervous and shy. We did this based on experiences in an earlier course in my M.Sc. program at Chalmers where I also had interviews together with students reading at their B.Sc. program. Like now, we then had the interviews with students two by two to get the students to feel more comfortable and to be more talkative.

During the interview, the students at first seemed a bit nervous, but the longer time that went by the more open they became. Both of them seemed positive towards the creation of a global M.Sc. program in climate change and economics. They said that what would attract them the most is the knowledge you can get by sharing perspectives with other students around the world. 

Both of the students also emphasized that they would like to improve their English, both when it comes to understanding and communication. This was something that surprised me a bit since it’s not what I would find the most attractive part if someone told me about a global M.Sc. program in climate change and economics. But if you know more about their context, with many of their classmates reading English parallell to their other courses because they aren’t confident enough when it comes to English, the motives aren’t so strange after all. The students that we interviewed also thought that this is going to effect who are going to apply for the program since English most probably is going to be a prerequisite.

When it comes to the meetings with the teachers (which we had one by one) the things that they brought up differed from what the students talked about. Both of the teachers talked much about their worries about the creation of a M.Sc. like this  which isn’t strange since there are so many things that you have to consider. One of the biggest question that both of them brought up during the meetings was if the purpose with this program is to produce graduates that are practitioners or researcher. It’s a very relevant question which hadn’t been considered earlier and that now is discussed very much within EfD. Maybe the program is going to be designed in a way that you can choose one of the above mentioned paths after a few courses.

Despite the worries, both of the teachers seemed eager for this program to become a reality. One of the teachers even ended the meeting with the comment “When do we start?”.

One thing that I take with me from these meetings is that you get totally different perspectives depending on who you talk to. Therefore it’s important to talk to the different types of stakeholders when working in projects (Maylor, 2010, Project management). Another reason to talk to different types of people when working in big projects like this is that it’s also easy to miss important parts if you don’t.

I’m going to finish this post by showing some photos, not only to give you some proof of my actual visit but also to make you a bit jealous.

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A part of the campus.

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Me in front of the main building on campus.

PS. Do you see the pond in the first photo? You can’t tell from the picture, but there actually are alligators in there.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

Imagine a leaf so big you could easily hide both of your feet in it. Or imagine a forest so dense that even if it is pouring down you won’t get wet. I don’t need to imagine, I’ve been to such a place. Exactly two weeks ago I, together with Erik Sterner, was fighting my way through the jungle in Costa Rica. But, besides from savoring the majestic nature of Costa Rica, what were we actually doing there?

In last week’s post I wrote about the global M.Sc. program initiative and that EfD now are planning on, as a first step, creating 1-2 pilot courses and try them at 1-2 sites. This was also one of the main reasons for me and Erik to visit CATIE in Costa Rica – to study the preconditions of CATIE being a potential start site for this. Besides from that it was also very valuable for us to meet with Francisco who I wrote about in the earlier post and who is one of the initial brains behind the idea of the global M.Sc. program in economics and climate change. Except for the last night of our visit, which we spent at a hotel, we also stayed at Francisco’s house the whole time we were there. This was great since we then got to feel the life of Costa Rica even more.

But let’s get our focus back to CATIE and what we did there. As I mentioned in my first post, CATIE (The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) is an international university that hosts the EfD center in Central America. The institute focuses on agricultural development and biological conservation and has several postgraduate programs. If you want, you can read more about CATIE at: https://www.catie.ac.cr/en/.

So, how did we do to study the preconditions of CATIE being a potential start site for this global M.Sc. program? We were at CATIE on Tuesday-Friday and in that time we:

– had a workshop with some of the staff
– had meetings with two teachers
– had a meeting with two prospect students
– had a meeting with the IT staff
– auscultated a lecture and a seminar
– had meetings with Francisco
– had a “roadmap-meeting” with Francisco, Gunnar and
Maria Damon (who is a research associate at EfD)

Most of the preparation for this week’s setup was done by Erik, since he is the one EfD is consulting when it comes to pedagogical advice (and therefore I’m going to observe what he is doing at EfD despite the fact that he, like me, is having his internship in this course at EfD). During the preparations I have come with input where I have been able to and where I have found it necessary, you could say I have been Erik’s sounding board in some of his work. As you can see in the list above, we talked to a lot of people. We did this to spread the word about the M.Sc. program but also to hear about expectations and worries and to collect new ideas.

One of my main reflections during the preparations for our visit in Costa Rica is about how Erik wants to get people involved in the process of creating this M.Sc. program. He wants the people that are going to be a part of the program in the future to also get a say during the process of creating it. The core of his vision is collaboration, both when it comes to creating the program but also later when the program is running at several sites. He wants EfD to take advantage of the fact that they have institutions all over the world by letting the program be built on collaboration between the different sites. This is to be done by letting the local teachers at a site collaborate with local teachers at other sites, and the same goes for the students. He also wants the students to have a say in their education, to strengthen the feeling that they in the future are going to be in a position of making a change.

This I can relate to, especially when it comes to a class I held during my internship at GTG (Göteborgs Tekniska Gymnasium). The class was about sustainable development and during the lesson I wanted to let the students play an active role in the discussions. Rather than serving my own reflections and conclusions straight into the students’ mouths I wanted them to reach their own conclusions. I did this since a teacher who gives students influence and allow them to participate actively in group discussions let them understand that their opinions are important and can be developed in conversations with peers (Sund, 2014, Att välja undervisningsunderhåll). I believe this will allow students to build up a sense that their ideas can have an impact and that they can make a difference (while also helping them practice to reflect and evaluate). If students don’t feel that they can make a difference in the classroom, how will they be able to feel that they can make a difference in society at large?

I think the same goes for the students that in the future are going to study this M.Sc. program. If the students feel that they have a say in their education, I think that will strengthen the feeling that they can make a change in society. As I said in my earlier post, the world is facing challenges when it comes to climate change and to deal with these problems people with a deep understanding of  both economics and environmental sciences are needed. But these people also need to be really good at collaborating and at negotiating.

I really think that this way of thinking will strengthen not only the M.Sc. program, but also the EfD network. As a positive side effect this might even help us save the planet.

The wind of (environmental) change

In this post I’m going to write more about the initiative to start the global Master of Science program (of which I mentioned in my previous post) and I’m going to try to answer the questions “What?”, “Why?”, “Who?” and “When & how?”. These are really big questions, but I will do my best to give short answers. So – let’s start with the first question.

What?
This M.Sc. program is a program in economics of climate change and development. It is an economics program designed to deal with questions regarding climate change. In the big picture, the goal is to have a global core, which then can be locally anchored at the different teaching centers around the world. This is to be done using the flipped classroom format, by having global professors recording videos which then local professors will use in the educational process.

Why?
The world is facing tremendous challenges in climate change and development. To deal with these problems people with a deep understanding of  both economics and environmental sciences are needed. As of now there are many different programs in economics, but very few with an environmental perspective.

Who?
Two of the initial brains behind this idea are Francisco Alpizar and Gunnar Köhlin. Gunnar is the director of the EfD Secretariat (and also my mentor during my internship at EfD). Francisco is the director of CATIE, a teaching center in Costa Rica that is a part of the EfD network, and he is also the one that has written the concept paper of the creation of this M.Sc. program. In the project of creating this program, EfD is consulting Erik Sterner as a pedagogical advisor.

As a part of this question there is also natural to ask for whom this program is meant. This is an important question which I will bring up in later posts.

When and how?
The overall approach when creating this M.Sc. program has, in my perspective, changed. The first time I heard about this initiative, in the beginning of this summer, the goal was to get really big fundings and quite fast implement the program at all of the eleven teaching centers around the world that is a part of the EfD network. But then the handbrake was pulled, since acting this way could not guarantee good quality performance.

This, to me, sounds like a good example of where you can apply the iron triangle (Maylor, 2010, Project Management).  A visualization of this triangle-model can be seen below.

irontriangle-001

In this project, the focus has shifted from time and cost priority, that is quickly delivering the program with limited funds, to lower the time priority and focus on a higher level of quality. Instead of creating the program at once and implement it at all sites, the new plan is to start by giving 1-2 courses at 1-2 sites and then develop it further. The figure below shows the change of focus applying the iron triangle-model.

irontriangleefd-001

This was all for now! In the next post I will talk more about the time in Costa Rica!

Up, up and away!

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I started to write this post while I was sitting on a bench at the airport Charles de Gaulle in Paris on my way to CATIE in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough time to finish the post at the airport so I’m continuing to write this now while I’m here in Costa Rica. This is where I will start my internship at EfD and in total I will be in Costa Rica for a week. But ”what is EfD?” is a question you now may ask yourself.

So, the EfD initiative, where EfD stands for Environment for Development, is a global network working with environmental economics. The network focuses on research, policy interaction and academic programs and the aim is to build environmental economics capacity in policy making processes in order to support poverty alleviation. The EfD initiative was created by the Environmental Economics Unit at the University of Gothenburg, where I will be during my time at EfD besides my time here in Costa Rica, in 2007 and you could say that this is where the heart of EfD is since this is also where the EfD Secretariat is. Besides the center in Sweden EfD has centers at different academic institutions all over the world including Central America, Chile, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, USA, India, Vietnam and Colombia. If you want to read more about the EfD initiative you can follow this link: http://www.efdinitiative.org/.

EfD is recently planning on creating a global master program in economics of climate change and this mainly is where I come in. During my time at EfD I, together with Erik Sterner (who also are here in Costa Rica right now), will look at the preconditions of building and starting such a program. There are a lot of questions that are to be sorted out when starting such a big project, like how to get fundings, who to involve, how to get people onboard etc. and our focus will mainly be on the pedagogic parts of building a master program like this.

As I said in the beginning of the post I was heading for CATIE (The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), which is an international university that hosts the EfD center in Central America. There is a possibility that this center could be a start site for the master program and that’s the reason we’re here – to look at the preconditions for this.

I think that’s it for now, I will talk more about the master program and our time here in CATIE in later posts.
And now – time for papaya!

Ciao