Trip summary

Visiting Tajikistan was an important first step to gaining appreciation for the scope and relevance of our UCA curriculum development project. The four of us making this trip were impressed by the amazing, friendly, energetic team building this new university and it’s 3 new campuses from scratch. And it was a privilege to meet the students who will be the first to take our courses in this Earth and Environmental Sciences degree.

Meeting UCA people, and the many organizations involved in related disciplines, has provided us with a whole new level of understanding for the relevance of this program, and the responsibility we have to generate an excellent experience that will prepare students for productive and personally rewarding  careers in Earth, environmental or geological sciences that will have significant impacts in the emerging, sustainable economies of the region.

This was a visit packed with meetings, smoothly and cheerfully managed by our UCA hosts, guides, and now friends. Thanks for the help and the experiences! A list of who we met is summarized on a separate page.

And for the four of us on this trip, the few photos shown here should provide a hint of the amazing impressions we gained for Tajikistan, UCA, and the cities of Dushanbe and Khorog. Next spring and summer we anticipate that two more groups of 4-5 course developers will travel to support the academic, cultural and geographical contextualization of their courses.

One set of 140 photos can be viewed on Flickr here.

Ending our visit to UCA Khorog

We are just setting off for the drive from Khorog to Dushanbe – 13hrs on rough road. Everyone says this will be a highlight, but the work and our one day outside yesterday were pretty hard to beat. This short post can not list all the people and organizations we have met, but suffice it to say, the network of educators, community developers, hazard / risk assessment & mitigation groups, scientists and students is amazing. UCA is growing as just one component of an inspiring wave of regional improvement and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

Yesterday we visit a major debris flow that cut off power and the main transport route in 2015, and were shown the effects, the mitigations, an efforts to work out permanent solutions. This also gave us a taste for the “country side” – which should be called “mountains side”. We also had a peaceful afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden – second highest in the world after one in China. Very lovely and … many photos taken by everyone!

There are two more days of meetings in Dushanbe starting tomorrow, then home via a 4:00am departure for the 26 hr journey. There are lots of details and lessons learned to write up, share with the team, with colleagues both here in Tajikistan and at UBC, and of course with family and friends.

Update from Dushanbe

Hi – we’ve arrived safe but tired, enjoyed 1.5 days to rest, recuperate and see a little of Dushanbe, and began a dense round of meetings this afternoon.

Everyone at UCA organizing our visit is being super-helpful and thoroughly enjoyable company. And thank goodness they speak several languages. You seem to need either Tajik or Russian here to get anywhere other than “standard” locations. Like the museum. We lucked out twice, with awesome guides, first at the phenomenally beautiful Ismaili Centre (https://the.ismaili/dushanbe/architecture-dushanbe), and then at the antiquities museum were a Tajik guide generously shared her boundless knowledge of the region’s archaeology (constantly interesting since neolithic times – including Greek communities established by Alexander), in very good English. Two hours was barely enough! See http://www.afc.ryukoku.ac.jp/tj/tajikistanEnglish/index.html

The objectives related to familiarization with UCA and it’s various components are being met by meeting with contributors to UCA’s various programs, and by the endless patience of staff as they answer our many questions about students,  courses in their first two (of five) years, logistics and infrastructure etc. etc. etc. It’s going to be a bit of “cognitive overload” – but there are four of us, thank goodness. Making a brand new university, with three brand new campuses in three different nations, a yet-to-be-completed roster of research and teaching faculty, a second year of undergraduate students well into their first term … I don’t know how they are doing it. But they are passionate, energetic, smart, and phenomenal “diplomats” and communicators. It’s a privilege to be part of the vision.

Maybe some pictures next time. For now I have only a few tourist images of the core of Dushanbe, and some recollections of great food at excellent local places. And it’s warm for this time of year – up to 27deg C. and sunny!

UBC visit to UCA’s Khorog campus

Our little team departs today to spend 3-4 days in Dushanbe and 4-5 days at the UCA Khorog campus (depending on travel arrangements between them). Lucy Porritt, Linda Strubbe, Phil Hammer and Francis Jones (see personnel) are carrying the UBC flag for this visit, and others will hopefully make a trip in late spring or summer.

Our main objectives are to meet UCA / MSRI colleagues, stake holders, students and locals with interests in Earth or environmental sciences, and to reach further consensus on curriculum, course scheduling and other program-specifics that influence the way this EES program is developed.

With amazingly well organized UCA support, we look forward to a productive time – they have created a very full itinerary, and we are bound to come away much better informed about our role and opportunities for collaboration.

We’ll try to post here as the visit progresses – we’ll see 🙂

Meeting with UBC-Okanagan’s Dep’t of Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences

August 29th 2017, a lunch time meeting with 9 EEGS faculty (two sending regrets) served to introduce UBC-O faculty and the UCA/UBC curriculum project coordinator to each other. Many thanks to Raina Reddecliff and Craig Nichol for their kind and efficient help in setting up and running the meeting.

In a nutshell, our goal is to generate 22 courses for the University of Central Asia’s new Earth and Environmental Sciences EES degree. The first students at UCA have already begun their 5-year program, and they will be taking our EES courses starting in September 2019 (or 2018 for 3 basic science prerequisites).

The slides used to introduce the project and explain details are available here as a PDF: UBCO-UCAproject-slides. Further details can be seen on pages at our project blog https://blogs.ubc.ca/eescourses/

We hope faculty will be able to engage as consulting subject experts, and to share teaching and learning resources or strategies with our team of 11 course authors (who are themselves experts in their own geoscience or environmental science subject areas).

Course authors (or science education specialists – SESs) will be doing all the work, and faculty subject experts need only meet or exchange communications occasionally (perhaps an hour per week or less on average) over the 2-year duration of this project. And yes, there are some monetary incentives – please ask for details.

Next steps:

  • Details about how faculty can engage with, and benefit from, this project are loosely outlined at https://blogs.ubc.ca/eescourses/files/2017/07/Faculty-expectations.pdf.
  • Project personnel may contact you with a request for an initial conversation sometime in the Fall of 2017. Of course there are no obligations, but we believe this may be an awesome opportunity to connect with researchers working in Central Asia, and to make a significant contribution to education in the Earth and environmental sciences, both at UCA, and here in BC, for our own students.
  • If you have graduate students and/or post-docs or RAs with an interest, by all means please put them in touch with Francis Jones, <fjones@eoas.ubc.ca>
  • AND, if you have questions or ideas, again, please contact Francis by email.

Thank you everyone for your interest and the friendly welcome. Hopefully we can move forward with further interactions between UBC-V and UBC-O faculty who have common interests in Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences.

By the way, if you have concerns about intellectual property (or any other formalities), please ask for details – we have a contract covering all such concerns that was carefully crafted by UBC’s legal council and signed by President Ono and UCA’s chairman of the board of trustees, Dr. Kassim-Lakha on Jan. 10, 2017.


Thinking about program level curriculum

With the kind support from Andrea Han of CTLT, 8 team-members met to begin an ongoing discussion about program-level curriculum. Two principal objectives were (1) to kick-start the project as a whole by getting as many team-members as possible together at the start of the 2017 school year, and (2) to begin mapping common conceptual or skills-related learning threads that will occur throughout the 3-year EES program.

curriculum
Team workshop about curriculum

Here we see the group attempting to articulate learning outcomes for specific courses under the banner of individual “program level outcomes”. This proved challenging, and led to several useful discussions. For example, it may be that this kind of mapping may be more appropriate for curriculum “review” rather than what we are doing here which is curriculum “design” – from scratch.

At this early stage of curriculum design, we do not yet have anything specific to map onto those program-level outcomes. In contrast, in a program “review” situation, there is an existing suite of courses that can be mapped onto the objectives, or pedagogic strategies, or assessment practices, or whatever.

As a next step, we will try having course authors (as experts in their disciplines) articulate key concepts and skills for each course WITHOUT regard for overarching goals. Then we can look for threads, and begin mapping results onto overarching outcomes later. This could be thought of as “bottom up” as opposed to “top down” thinking. Both will be important, and this first workshop was very helpful for getting the thinking started. We will most likely benefit from a sort of “yin and yang” approach that incorporates both perspectives.

Andrea also exposed us to several different types of “mappings” and provided an excellent “curriculum mapping primer” written by staff at CTLT. It’s contents are:

  • What is curriculum mapping and why do it?
  • Data which can be included in curriculum mapping
  • Approaches for collecting the data
  • Questions to ask yourself to help organize the curriculum mapping process
  • Relevant Resources (a short bibliography)
  • Appendix 1: Curriculum map examples
  • Appendix 2: Example of a survey to instructors, less details
  • Appendix 3: Example of a survey to instructors, more details

Fall plans beginning to emerge

Most of the course development team will have begun by the time September roles around. Then between October 6 and 16, the first UBC delegation will visit UCA’s brand new campus in Khorog, Tajikistan to meet faculty, administrators, students, and local, industry & government sponsors, partners and stake holders.

UCA Khorog campus opening September 2017.
UCA Khorog campus opening September 2017.

This short visit will focus on building relationships between the wide range of participants, especially students and faculty. Success at developing the Earth and Environmental curriculum most certainly depends upon incorporating their needs, priorities and interests!

More details will be provided, probably in September, once the team is well-engaged in overarching iterative development of program-scale curriculum.

Summer 2017

As of mid-summer we have established the majority of the science education specialists who will build courses. Now we must begin to use existing UCA Core Literacies and the EES program’s key learning objectives to lay down the scope and outline of the EES curriculum. UBC’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology is helping with curriculum-level thinking, and collaborative work among team members has begun.

Next steps are to identify UBC courses in EOAS, Geography and UBC-Okanagan, and establish relationships with corresponding faculty. Their roles and opportunities are summarized in the 1-pg faculty expectations document here.

We are also beginning to plan UBC’s first visit to Khorog in the first half of October.

Team Building

As of May 30th, we have a fantastic team at UBC of 11 (so far), all of whom are keen to start working on curriculum and courses. See the personnel page. We are still looking for one or two more for senior electives.

The best part about this team is that, while each has PhD or other extensive disciplinary expertise,  nearly everyone knows each other as colleagues who have worked in various science education development roles within their respective departments at UBC.

Some minor logistical details are still being resolved but we are meeting as a team for the first time on June 7th. Curriculum and course design and development will begin then, with several SESs starting work immediately, or as soon as they have met prior commitments for this summer.

Progress, spring 2017

After a highly effective and efficient two-day meeting at UBC March 16th ad 17th, we are moving forward with hiring Science Education Specialists (SESs) to take responsibility for specific courses.

We thank all of the following for making the long trip from Kyrgyzstan to UBC. We met for 2 full days to fine tune project details and to meet as many of the UBC Faculty and SESs as possible. The energy, enthusiasm and organization of this team is infectious!

  • Diana Pauna, Dean of Arts and Science, UCA,
  • Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, Director Mountain Societies Research Institute,
  • Marc Foggin, Associate Director, Mountain Societies Research Institute, and
  • Fayzan Gowan, Manager of Planning and Development, School of Arts and Sciences
UCA - UBC March 2017
UCA – UBC March 2017

As of April 4th 2017, we have very strong interest from existing UBC faculty and staff for roughly half the courses, and possible interest for several others. Once we have commitments for existing people (hopefully by mid-late April) we will advertise for SESs to take responsibility for remaining courses (listed with updated titles on our EES program course list page.