The most important contribution that I can make to society is to inspire in the next generation of citizens, scientists and policy-makers the desire to bring an understanding of climate science to bear on the archetypal 'wicked problem' (e.g. Camillus, and Brown) of responding to the enormous challenges posed by anthropogenic climate change. From my early fascination with weather and a natural curiosity about how the natural world works, and a passion for teaching developed early in life, I have focussed my commitment to unravelling the complexities of climate variability and change on igniting in my students a similar engagement with this critically important topic. I combine passion for my subject and its relevance to contemporary society with professionalism and deep knowledge of my discipline. My pedagogic approach is to provide a strong conceptual understanding of scientific principles and theory as a basis for students to develop flexible thinking, by applying their knowledge in the real world problem-solving experiences that I structure into my courses. Students find the educational experiences I expose them to challenging, rewarding and empowering; they particularly value my curriculum that provides opportunities for individualised research-based activities with real-world applications.
Since I teach across all three years of the undergraduate curriculum and at postgraduate coursework level, and have been solely responsible, for the past 17 years, for developing second and third year courses in my subject area, I have been able to develop a progressive, integrated and relevant curriculum that allows students to learn far ahead of any textbook in this rapidly evolving field. Students regularly comment on the difference their experiences in my courses makes to their learning, revealing new perspectives, helping them to develop new skills, and showing them options for the future.
My approach to education is based on the key principles: excellence and flexibility in the design, content and delivery of an innovative, research-led curriculum that draws on the principles of active learning and enhances students' learning outcomes the development of students' independent life-long learning and research skills; and respect and support for students as individuals, and commitment to help them develop their individual strengths and interests.
My educational philosophy and its success are exemplified in the most exciting experience through my years of teaching, when I led classes of undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Bali (2007) and Copenhagen (2009). The 2009 course was the first instance of a formal university course being run at a UN Climate Change Conference; both occasions offered students an unprecedented opportunity for active learning. Being with those students as they experienced and engaged first-hand with what we had learned about and simulated in class - the urgency of the latest climate change science, the realities of developing-country vulnerability, the conflicting imperatives of development and sustainability, and the tension of the international policy negotiations - was both exciting and humbling. They assimilated everything they'd learned about this complex topic, and made the transition from the hypothetical to the real with enormous success, reflected in the exceptional learning reflections and research papers they produced.