It is a challenging task for a professor to ensure successful practice-based learning and assess students' understanding and efforts. After a few years of running the Environmental Practicum course at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy the need for introduction of new teaching strategies to ensure better experiential learning was realized.
Environmental Practicum course is dedicated to the practice-based learning of environmental students, who, in addition to academic theoretical studies, have to face real life contemporary environmental issues and be able to tackle corresponding arising challenges in order to be successful in their professional career. This course is focused on students’ experiential learning through individual internships conducted at participating environmental organizations with various research as well as political mandates.
The diversity of inviting organizations, individual schedules, and variety of assigned tasks may complicate evaluation of student’s progress. To ensure notable development in student’s understanding of research field, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking, more reflective and innovative learning strategies should be introduced to the course. Meaningful reflection on experience is the key aspect of successful practice-based learning. High quality reflection is crucial, yet it remains difficult to apply in practice.
Thus, the goal of this project, supported by the CEU Teaching Development Grant, is to identify and introduce into the Environmental Practicum course innovative strategies of reflective learning, particularly guided reflection, to ensure successful and meaningful experiential learning and its adaptation to the postgraduate academic program.
Through the analysis of literature review and available resources on innovations in teaching practices and tactics, relevant and most suitable techniques were identified to be introduced into the course (for example, online surveys for guided reflection, integrative seminars, group discussions, short written reflections, etc.). After the experiments with new techniques thought out the course, the project will conclude with the comprehensive analysis of accumulated information and feedback, to assess positive and negative features of this experience, successful and problematic aspects.
In the end, the project aims to:
foster students’ habit to act and think as “reflective practitioners”, which can serve as a valuable skill for their further careers;
support instructor’s professional development through learning new reflective learning techniques;
update the Environmental Practicum course syllabus by introducing new exercises without overwhelming students and consider a number of additional improvements for the future.