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Liam Phelan

Liam Phelan’s primary research interest is sustainability and how to achieve it.  He has a long-standing engagement at the nexus of climate change, finance, human rights and ecological sustainability. More recently his research interests have evolved to focus on governance of the Earth system as a complex adaptive system comprising human-social and ecological elements, and its key characteristics, including thresholds, non-linear change, and capacity for surprise. Liam’s background is in activism for social and ecological justice, and human rights — the connections between education, social justice and sustainability are his key interests. Through his teaching he aims to support students to engage in their own active learning processes and facilitate in them an understanding of complex environmental sustainability issues in order to participate effectively in wider society as highly functioning citizens.  He pursues ‘deep approaches’ to learning, associated with outcomes described by students themselves as ‘understanding’, ‘seeing something in a different way’ and ‘changing as a person’; this represents significant ambition for teaching, beyond shallow learning such as ‘increasing one’s knowledge’, ‘memorising’ and ‘applying’. From this philosophical starting point he has developed an approach to teaching that conceptualises learning as a social and interactive activity. In his teaching practice Liam creates a sense of community in cohorts of online Master students by emphasising students’ interaction with course content, peers and the lecturer.