“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler
Teaching and learning philosophy
I find teaching one of the most important activities humans could arguably engage in. Teaching understood as transfer of knowledge from teacher to students constitutes only a part of this. Equally important is the inter-subjective learning that takes place during the process of teaching, which essentially allows students as well as teachers to benefit in their own ways.
I personally believe that clear and effective transfer of knowledge is the highest proof of expertise in any given field. As such it should be seen as essential in any academic pursuit. In line with this philosophy, a good teacher should provide students with tools for self-disciplined critical approach to major contemporary challenges as well as lifelong autonomous learning based on personal curiosity of the world around us. It is this curiosity that ultimately rests at the foundation of human progress and it is this curiosity which we should cultivate as teachers.
As a teacher, I always persuade my students not to take anything at face value. Going beyond established patterns of thinking and especially stereotypes is the only way to find out the truth – the ultimate goal of science. A good educator should therefore show students how to identify and approach problems but refrain from providing definite answers. It is the students who should find the answers for themselves and by themselves.
Pedagogical good practice
My teaching philosophy translates into particular practices that I use to engage my students in order to help them benefit from the courses that I offer. As such, my courses include:
I believe that raising questions is perhaps the most important quality of an independent mind. Many questions however do not have definite answers. As long as my students understand the value of asking questions in the first place, I consider myself a successful teacher. I cannot and do not attempt to give answers. I can and do always strive however at teaching my students to find the answers on their own. In that sense, any academic course is relevant to future careers that graduates will follow. Such approach will help our graduates to be ready to take up most challenges in the future. Critical thinking that is instilled this way proves to be vital in the contemporary world.
Each class of every one of my courses starts with a critical-thinking question (please see below). This question is to be born in mind by the participants of the course when they cover the readings for the particular class. That way students can focus on the most important aspects of the topic discussed. This enables learner-cantered teaching as each critical-thinking question is later discussed during the class. For the same reason, I always require my students to end their case-study presentations with a set of three questions that serve as starting point for the discussion that follows – appendix 1.
To watch a case-study presentation and a discussion that follows please follow this link:
I strongly believe in using technology to improve teaching and learning. Web-based approach is therefore at the center of my teaching. All my courses are always available on BUMoodle, where students can find all relevant information regarding the course, requirements, grading criteria, readings and lots of additional resources. (Please see above).
Since the class itself should be just one of the components of learning process, I pay special attention to additional resources that are relevant to each topic that is discussed during the class. All of my courses, therefore, include a wide range of resources apart from textbooks and readings. Additional materials facilitate independent pursuit of knowledge. As an example, again refer to the class above. The title of the course is Foundations of International Relations and the topic for the class is: The Evolution of Processes and Structures in International Relations. As you can see additional sources of information include history charts, BBC world profile or a case-study as prepared by another e-learning platform, in this case, CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online). See more here:
For each and every course I use the News Forum feature of BU Moodle that allows me to send information relevant to the topics that we are discussing during the classes. This serves two purposes: firstly, it helps students to stay on top of recent political developments and secondly, it extends the course outside the classroom in order to additionally stir the interest of the participants in the topics that are discussed during the classes, which facilitates inquiry-based teaching.
For foundations of International Relations course, each student needs to summarize at least one of the readings that are provided over the duration of the course. These summaries (up to 300 words) are then uploaded to BU Moodle and facilitate preparation for the exam. On top of that, this particular task teaches students to identify the major points of each reading, eliciting synthetic skills.
Simulations/Problem-based learning/Buzz group:
For my Security Studies course, we always organize simulations of the decision-making process. Participants (always divided into groups) act as refugees, military commanders or national security advisors and make decisions regarding probable situations under the pressure of time. As such simulations allow me not only to control the learning environment but also provide experimental learning.
Most students enjoy the simulations and highlight this part of the course in their feedback: For a short clip please follow this link:
For all my courses students have to deliver case-study presentations. These are usually done in groups of two or three. As such, this approach stimulates collaborative learning (preparation for the presentation is done in groups) and gives students an opportunity to perfect their public speaking skills as well as learn from one another. This is especially well observed during the Model European Union final conference and preceding workshops that simulate plenary sessions or engage students in impromptu speeches. Please see link below:
The Model European Union is another example of interactive and intersubjective learning that takes place in my classroom. Every year this course ends with a 2-day conference where students represent the EU member states and try to negotiate a ‘set of conclusions’ regarding real challenges or threats that the EU faces. The exercise plays on three levels: personal (participants act as Heads of real states), national (as national interests are at stake) and international (as the goal of negotiations is always to achieve a consensus at the EU level). This particular course is unique in a sense that it also allows participants to interact with actual diplomats representing both EU and EU member states. One of the preparatory seminars is always held at the EU Office to HK and Macao. For more please see: http://euap.hkbu.edu.hk/main/hkmeu/
During the course, participants have to deliver presentations based partly on materials they are provided and partly on the information they search themselves. In particular, every participant needs to prepare two position papers and a presentation of a particular Head of State/Government they would be acting as during the conference. Please follow this link for a short clip from the final conference:
Perfecting basic research skills:
For all of my courses, I cooperate with HKBU Library to various extents in designing assignments relating to literacy skills. Especially for foundation courses, it is important for my students to understand the principles of good research and academic honesty. For an example, refer to appendix 2.
I pay special attention to teaching my students the basics of good research in political science. Therefore, especially for the Foundations of International Relations course as well as during my HP seminars students are required to organize their research and work especially hard on their methodology when writing term papers and Honours Projects.
In the appendix list at the bottom of this portfolio you can find:
a) POLS 2017 Foundations of International Relations – term paper grading criteria – appendix 3
b) Honours Project seminar – Introduction guidelines – appendix 4
c) Research and writing in IR:
I believe each student should know what is exactly expected of him and what she/he needs to do to score highest marks. This is why for each assignment students are always given grading criteria which help them perfect their research skills – see appendix 3.
Project-based learning (going beyond the mainstream):
For each and every course that I offer students usually need to prepare a presentation of a case-study. This allows them to apply general ideas we talk about during lectures to particular events in IR.
For my Security Studies course, students are specifically required to include not only mainstream scholarship but also alternative (oftentimes controversial approaches) which further facilitates critical thinking and learner-centred teaching. For an example of presentation requirements, please refer to appendix 1.
Such approach is also used during examinations where students are asked to answer opened-ended questions. All of the courses that I offer, that end with an examination, include an open-book exam. Students are allowed to bring in their notes, readings we use for classes and even textbooks. Exam questions require them to apply general ideas to analyze particular phenomena that currently take place in IR.
I am also an advisor to two student societies, namely: GISS – Government and International Studies Society and HKBU AIA – Hong Kong Baptist University Association of International Affairs.
Most of my lectures are interactive. I always encourage my students to raise questions at any time during the class, which is why my PPTs for the class usually include a minimum of text, but lots of additional materials such as links, cartoons or films. One of the many PPTs that use for my class:
External attachments and practice:
Model European Union course offers a unique opportunity for the winners of the conference to enroll automatically for a summer top-up programme. It is a study trip to Brussels during which participants have a chance of visiting most important Institutions of European Union like European Commission and European Parliament and participate in seminars organized there. See more at: http://euap.hkbu.edu.hk/main/events/summer-eu-student-exchange- top-up-programme-brussels-2016/
I spend a lot of time giving feedback to my students on how well they do. Especially after each course ends I reserve extra time to go through their term papers and exam papers so that they understand how to improve their work in future.
- Evidence of teaching and learning
For feedback from my students please refer to:
- Testimonials from some of my students: appendix 5
- Teaching Evaluation of one of the courses as an example: appendix 6
- Feedback from participant of the Model European Union course: appendix 7
- Certificate of Appreciation (HKBU Library for Excellence in Undergraduate Research) for 2015. (Also for 2014): appendix 8
- Faculty Award for Early Career Academic (Teaching) 2015-16: appendix 9
- Certificate for outstanding chairmanship of Hong Kong Model EU issued by European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao: appendix 10
- President’s Award for Outstanding Performance 2017: appendix 11
- For a short clip from the presentation ceremony please follow: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1oeu7uzwgb0p8w6/Pward2017_01DrKrzysztof_b.mp4?dl=0
- Nomination by Hong Kong Baptist University for United Grants Committee 2017 Teaching Award (nomination package) (UGC certificate: appendix 13)
As a rule, my teaching evaluation is in most cases well above the departmental or faculty levels. Since I joined HKBU I have always received good/excellent or excellent for my teaching.
- Teaching-research nexus
I strongly believe that both teaching and learning reinforce each other. Teaching on contemporary issues in IR is a demanding task. It requires constant updating of all topics for all classes. Spending much time on updating each class (even the one I have taught for seven consecutive years) allows me to better conduct my research and vice-versa.
My research interests cover: British foreign policy and security strategy; Polish foreign policy and security strategy; security and strategic studies; non-traditional security issues and European Union foreign and security policies. For the list of my publications and academic activity please follow this link: http://gis.hkbu.edu.hk/staff/sliwinski.html
Reflection on teaching and learning
I strive to improve my teaching by listening to my students. I take their suggestions seriously and have incorporated many of them into my teaching practice. In fact, all of the courses have been co-designed by my students in that sense. Short quizzes, believe it or not, have actually been suggested by the students. The same goes to simulations and the format of case- study presentations.
By nature, I am a very talkative person, which sometimes manifests itself with me lecturing too much and speaking too quickly. Therefore, I always remind my students and encourage them to raise questions as often as possible. I continually strive to run the lectures in an interactive manner and be as responsive to students as possible. Interaction is the key work for me. By engaging students into discussions during my classes I hope to stimulate their engagement and interest in the topics. Where possible, I always try to use regional or local examples to convey the sense of the relevance of the topics we discuss during the classes.
As teacher and student (I still take up new challenges within and outside my field), I realize that only a small percentage of learning takes place inside the classroom. Ideally, students should come to class only to get inspired to further their own quest or clear some of the doubts they should have.
Ultimately, learning is one of the most wonderful activities. As long as we live, we should always learn, relearn and perhaps sometimes even unlearn. This is the only way to approach truth in a philosophical sense and discover ourselves.
Professional development and leadership
I continue to perfect my teaching skills by attending numerous seminars organized by HKBU on various aspects of teaching both in terms of pedagogy and technology. I have been an active member of e-Teaching Portfolio community of practice at HKBU.
I attend seminars on teaching organized by the HKBU Library or CHTL like those on new platforms of web-based learning or Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning.
Since I joined HKBU I have proposed and successfully introduced a number of university courses. Foreign and Security Policy of EU, Security Studies and Model European Union. Additionally, I have also developed two general education courses: Contemporary World Politics and Global Issues and What is Political Science about. All of these courses include active, discovery and collaborative learning.
Recently I have been developing an inter-university exercise – ‘Asia-Pacific Model European Union – European Council Simulation’. It is first of its kind educational offer, designed to familiarize students with the framework and procedures of international negotiations. It presents the participants with a unique chance of taking part in a simulation of European Council (summits) meetings and thereby gaining ‘hands-on’ experience in preparing for and conducting multi-country political deliberations about current real-life issues. In the process, the students also study the political, economic and social backgrounds of European Union member states in a comparative perspective. The simulation systematically encourages peer learning.
As such this exercise explores new angles of teaching and combines the spread of EU expertise with an out-of-the-box pedagogical approach. Specifically, each simulation exercise culminates with a two-day conference (EU Summit) where participants act as Heads of States/Governments and Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Their aim is to achieve a set of conclusions on a particular topic (http://euap.hkbu.edu.hk/main/apmeu/ and https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/apmeu2017 source=feed_text&story_id=1306542799429077.)
The APMEU enables participants to demonstrate practical understanding of negotiation processes at an international level and identify and explain major elements of European Union governance and joint decision-making. By the end of the project, students will be able to demonstrate sophisticated research skills required for preparing negotiation positions and present high-level political positions and considerations in an international decision-making context. Please see a short clip from the APMEU 2016 here:
In this regard, I was recently awarded grant from European Commission: 575450-EPP-1- 2016-1-HK-EPPJMO-PROJECT, Project Title: “Asia-Pacific Model European Union – European Council Simulation”. The project is co-funded by EU (2017-2018) and will be realized in cooperation with National Centre for Research on Europe at University of Canterbury.
So far three conferences have been organized: 2015 (Japan), 2016 (Hong Kong) and 2017 (Hong Kong). The next one – 2018 (under the Jean Monnet Project funding co-funded by European Commission) will be held in New Zealand.