“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 the 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 a 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 a self-disciplined critical approach to major contemporary challenges as well as lifelong autonomous learning based on the 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 an 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-centred 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 the 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. The web-based approach is therefore at the centre 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 the 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 the 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 the foundations of the 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:
The course of SOSC 7320 Debating Global Society is designed to allow students to freely exchange their ideas as well as perfect their research and presentation skills. Over the course of the semester students need to participate in at least 5 debates (for which they need to prepare in-class – see more here:
act as public policy makers representing various departments of a global city like Hong Kong, prepare political or legal initiatives by International Organisations or act as global society experts and produce a mind map of global connections in a given field; see example:
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 the 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:
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 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:Rossele-Spray_Research-and-writing-in-IR_Ch1
I believe each student should know what is exactly expected of him and what she/he needs to do to score the 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 an alternative (oftentimes controversial approaches) which further facilitates critical thinking and learner-centred teaching. For an example of presentation requirements, please refer to appendix 1.
I recently started offering master-level courses for Master of Arts in Global Society (see more at: http://lewi.hkbu.edu.hk/ma-in-gs/objectives/). SOSC 7320 Debating Global Society course finishes with a group project where students need to prepare posters on an assigned topic. The poster-session, attended by academic community facilitates the free exchange of ideas and stimulates academic discussion; see a related photo:
Such an 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 enrol 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 the European Union like the European Commission and European Parliament and participate in seminars organised there.
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://vod02.hkbu.edu.hk/video/file/v.php?f=pers/paward2017/01DrKrzysztof
- Nomination by Hong Kong Baptist University for United Grants Committee 2017 Teaching Award:
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 covers: 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:
As self-reflection is an essential part of the education, I often finish my classes with allocating at least 10 minutes by the end of the class to allow students to sum up what they think they have learned through the class and share it with their classmates.
For the Course of Introduction to Social Sciences (SOSC 1006), the final assignment is divided into two parts (each valued at 40%). Each part requires students to produce a 750 to 1000 words-long self-reflection report. According to Terry Heick, the founder of the educational website TeachThought, “by shifting their reflection from content to thought, students have the chance to put themselves back at the centre of the learning process […] “when they reflect, students reimagine what happened in both first and third person — as they were seen, and as they saw through their own eyes.” That sense of perspective is really important in building independent and self-directed learners. As a form of writing, self-reflection is also an excellent way to craft one’s thoughts into coherent ideas and to establish stronger connections (Vogels, 2017).
Vogles, J. (2017). Why Is Self-Reflection A Good Thing For Students To Do? Availavble at: https://news.coloradoacademy.org/self-reflection-good-thing-students/
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.
Recently, my reflection on teaching and learning turned into research activity. Based on the funding acquired form the European Commission I organized a series of international conferences: Asia Pacific Model European Union (see more below). Based on the data we have collected for three consecutive years and the analysis performed together with my co-investigators, we were able to produce a research paper:
Holland, M., Sliwinski, K. & Thomas, N. (2020). “Is Affective Effective? Measuring Affective Learning in Simulations.” International Studies Perspectives, ekaa005, https://doi.org/10.1093/isp/ekaa005.
I have also participated in a number of international conferences on teaching and learning:
- “Assessing Simulations as Affective Learning Environments”. A paper presented at the Joint International Teaching and Leaning Conference 2019, 17-19 June 2019, Jurys Inn Waterfront, Brighton, Political Studies Association (with Dr. Nick Thomas City University of Hong Kong).
- Quality and Self-financed Higher Education “Connecting Local and Global. University of Hong Kong on 16th November 2019. (Conference postponed due to political circumstances in HK.)
- Joint International Teaching and Leaning Conference 2019, 17-19 June 2019, Jurys Inn Waterfront, Brighton.
- Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning, Lilly Conference, 16-18 May 2019, Hong Kong.
- Hong Kong Baptist University – Hiroshima University First Joint Symposium on Education, 17 March 2018, Hong Kong.
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.
On top of this, I recognize the importance of caring for students’ emotional and psychological needs. Towards this end, I have graduated from a Mental Health First Aid Standard Course organized by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong: Appendix 14
I also 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 the 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 from 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 a 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 a grant from the 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 the National Centre for Research on Europe at the University of Canterbury.
So far, five conferences have been organized: 2015 (Japan), 2016 (Hong Kong) 2017 (Hong Kong), 2018 (New Zealand) and 2019 (Hong Kong). The last three have been financed under the Jean Monnet Project funding co-funded by the European Commission). See more at: http://apmeuhk.hkbu.edu.hk/
More recently, together with Dr Martin Chung (GIS-HKBU) we have secured a mini grant from HKBU Centre for Innovative Service-Learning for A project: Model European Union (EURO 2015) engaging ethnic minorities from HK secondary schools.
This course brings together HKBU students and ethnic minority (EM) students from local secondary schools to work on a simulated European Union, which is a two-day event in which secondary school students will learn some basic research skills. They will also act as assistants to the “Heads of States”, and that serves as an empowering process in which they receive coaching and mentorship from university students. These brotherly/sisterly figures serve as mentors to cultivate their dream in tertiary and higher education so that a message of hope and a futuristic outlook can be delivered to them.
See more at:
My teaching has been recognized by the attainment of the Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA). (In recognition of attainment against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in higher education). Fellowship reference – PR180206, Date of Fellowship – 25/09/2020.