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Transformative Teaching

Focus on Pedagogy 2022
Connecting Environment and Community: Building Students’ Capacities as Future Environmental Professionals
R. Portus & SJ. Williams
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


As we find ourselves in a period of environmental emergency, it has become clear that we need to transform environmental management teaching. Critically, we need to prepare students to become professionals who respond to environmental challenges as intersectional crises that require community-driven solutions. In response to this need, we developed a module centred around building students’ capacities to recognise the need for genuine inclusion and diverse representation to achieve authentic participation in environmentally focused projects. The module content uses innovative teaching methods to develop students’ confidence as leaders in a variety of environmentally focused fields, providing them with the opportunity to connect their academic knowledge with real local and global cultural contexts, experience different methods of public engagement (e.g. World cafes, guided discussions), and lead on visioning, developing and delivering their own participation projects. With an emphasis on inclusion, students need to think about what true representation and participation looks like. The delivery of this project, and students’ associated reflections, form the module assessment. Students’ experience of the module and assessment will be reflected in the paper. In addition to nurturing students’ confidence as communicators, the content of this module allows students to build connections within their peer group (an opportunity which has been previously hindered due to COVID-19), foster their capacity for self-reflection, and develop their ability to work effectively within groups. This paper presents this module and assessment as a case study example of a pedagogical approach which transforms students’ capacities as both individuals and future environmental professionals.


Rosamund Portus is a research fellow and lecturer at Bristol UWE, working in the field of the environmental humanities. Rosamund’s current research examines young people’s experiences of the climate emergency and creative tools for transforming climate education. Her PhD, which was funded as part of the Imagining and Representing Species Extinction network, considered the social and cultural dimensions of bee decline. Rosamund lectures in geography and environmental management, with a particular focus on environmental psychology.

Sara is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of the West of England, UWE, and with her background in (child) psychology and community development she pursues two main lines of inquiry within the field of environmental psychology: Young people’s understanding of, and engagement with the challenges posed by climate change and their ability to act as catalysts to environmental action and behaviour change within their families and communities. Sara leads a BSc Environmental Management degree and is also co-investigator on two research council funded projects; VIP-CLEAR (Voices in a Pandemic: Children’s Lockdown Experiences Applied to Recovery) and CCC-Catapult.