I believe that academic education should create space for dialogue and mutual learning. This is reflected in my interest in collaborative work, which stretches across teaching and research and evidenced in the various multi-disciplinary projects I’m involved in with international partners. From Bachelors to Masters and beyond to Ph.D. supervision, I have taught across many layers of higher education in diverse fields of urban studies including urban and human geography, and urban planning.
I recently established UGoveRN, a research network initiated to train and motivate early career scholars from research masters and Ph.D. students to post-doc researchers actively involved in academic research. The aim is to help these researchers develop their publishing and research trajectories, and more importantly, enjoy the stimulating environment that academic research offers, from lively debate and learning to the co-production of knowledge. UGoveRN will help these early career scholars to develop the skills they need to become experts in their field, everything from writing research proposals and publishing in peer-reviewed journals through to authoring books and becoming lecturers themselves.
At masters level teaching, I prefer an interactive, student-centred teaching method that encourages learning by students and lecturers alike. I favour classroom dynamics that permits dialogue and fosters a community spirit. I believe that students learn best when their interest is stimulated through tailor-made activities that provide opportunities to engage with the subject.
Sharing my ongoing research material with students and creating possibilities to discuss the actual research questions and findings with them is key. My teaching encourages critical, argumentative and research-oriented thinking. I aim to stimulate students to develop the ability to synthesise their own views from reading material in an effort to respond to actual problems. Along with course reading material that includes textbooks, relevant academic and popular science articles, and newspapers, I also motivate students by incorporating media such as video, documentary and films as well as relevant social media and active blogging.
Working with a generation of students who were born into an advanced technological world, my approach is to use every possible communication and media tool to keep them engaged and interested in ways that are familiar to them. Not only has this approach enabled me quickly adjust to the restrictions of the COVID-19 era — an ‘online only‘ academic education environment — but also helped me to find new ways to establish links that were not possible before, for example, film clubs, self-made podcasts, online discussion panels, webinars, and online mapping tools that enable interactive learning.
At bachelors level teaching, I strive to build links between everyday practices (reality) and theoretical knowledge on the subject matter. This means that students not only learn from prescribed course material, but also have the ability to link it to broader and relevant study fields on a practical level. I have learned from working closely with freshmen students that special attention should be paid to make students understand the place of the body of literature in a broader world of social sciences by teaching them the ability to link the knowledge transferred to them in each lecture with the reality surrounding them so that they can develop a framework in which they can place this knowledge. My approach is to provide ‘excitement’ when it comes to learning, to make them ‘want to learn’ so that they read, understand and engage with course material. By stimulating their interest, students retain this knowledge for a long time in my experience. While this approach requires more time than obligatory reading, the results are positive and far more effective in terms of long-term knowledge creation. This teaching formula also requires new evaluation and examination models, ones that cannot be based on rigid, descriptive and didactic methods prescribed in classic exams. I actively involve students in teaching by stimulating group and teamwork activities, coordinating student-led seminars, poster design workshops, blog development, research teamwork, and field studies. All of this is supported by the basics including developing a research question, a simple research method and conducting field research.
All of the above provides students with a solid foundation for them to develop their professional careers. It’s a win-win as I also profit by bringing my own ongoing research into the classroom to use as an instrument to connect students to the academic world.