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Career Summary

Biography

My primary research interest is sustainability and how to achieve it. I have a long-standing engagement at the nexus of climate change, finance, human rights and ecological sustainability. More recently my 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. My particular interest is the relationship between the Earth system and the global economy as a subsystem of the Earth system, and how to bring the global economy into alignment with the Earth system. I engage in critical research, i.e. research which seeks both to understand the world and to change it for the better.

I aim to equip and encourage students to participate consciously, actively and effectively in wider society as highly functioning citizens. Connections between education, social justice and sustainability are a key interest for me. This is why I teach. Through my teaching I aim to support students to engage in their own active learning processes and facilitate in them an understanding of complex environmental sustainability issues. I pursue ‘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 I have developed an approach to teaching that conceptualises learning as a social and interactive activity. I believe online students’ sense of belonging to a learning community is absolutely essential to their success and joy in learning. For students in the online space, interactions are key to their development of a sense of community, and learners interactions, engagement and their sense of community may even constitute a virtuous spiral, i.e. a self-reinforcing process which supports achievement of learning goals. In my teaching practice I create a sense of community in cohorts of online Master students by emphasising students’ interaction with course content, peers and myself as lecturer.

My background is in activism for social and ecological justice, and human rights. I have worked with civil society organisations including AID/WATCH and the Australia Tibet Council. In 2005 I was co-recipient of the international Free Spirit Award, created in 2003 to honour individuals working for the cause of Tibetan people. I have also served in several honorary roles with the International Tibet Support Network and with The Mercy Foundation, a philanthropic foundation with a social justice mission based in Sydney, Australia.

Qualifications

  • PhD (Environment and Geography), Macquarie University, 15/04/2011
  • Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education, University of Newcastle, 31/12/2009
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of New South Wales, 31/12/1996

Research

Research keywords

  • Climate change
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Insurance
  • Neo-Gramscian political economy
  • Online teaching & learning
  • Sustainability

Research expertise

In brief

Expertise: Earth system thresholds; climate change; finance (especially insurance); complexity theory; critical political economy; interdisciplinary research methodologies; and and pedagogy of online education, especially fostering online students sense of belonging to learning communities. Skills: researching complex sustainability problems by drawing from the physical & social sciences; conceptual development; qualitative research methods.

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Research interests

My primary research interest is sustainability and how to achieve it. I have a long-standing engagement at the nexus of climate change, finance, human rights and ecological sustainability. More recently my 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. My particular interest is the relationship between the Earth system and the global economy as a subsystem of the Earth system, and how to bring the global economy into alignment with the Earth system. I engage in critical research, i.e. research which seeks both to understand the world and to change it for the better.

I have also developed a 'second discipline' in online teaching and learning. My current research interest in this area is online students' sense of belonging to learning communities: how this aligns with constructivist understandings of learning, how this supports students' achievement and enjoyment of learning, and how to foster students' sense of belonging.

Theory and conceptual development

I have worked extensively with complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory, particularly as applied to social-ecological systems, i.e. the Earth system, the global economy, or virtually any other subsystem of the Earth system. CAS theory can serve well as an anchoring theoretical perspective for interdisciplinary Earth system research: one that can engage with cross-scale interaction (e.g. climate change as an expression of interaction between the global economy and the Earth system). I have combined CAS theory with neo-Gramscian political economy and also with diverse economies theory in order to addressing seemingly intractable sustainability questions. I also have working familiarity with climate and Earth system science.

Methodology

I seek to apply interdisciplinary methodologies in my research. While not necessary for all research, interdisciplinary methodologies are often an ideal choice for complex sustainability questions. I am most familiar with transdisciplinary methodologies (i.e. drawing on diverse disciplines from the very earliest stage of defining the research problem), which I used in PhD studies. I enjoy collaborating with colleagues with shared interests and complimentary expertise in order to pursue sustainability research.

PhD

Awarded 2011, Macquarie University, Sydney. In Environment & Geography. The PhD’s title is The relationship between anthropogenic climate change and the insurance system: Imperatives, options, and reflections on theory. The PhD is a transdisciplinary study of the relationship between climate change, the global economy and insurance. The research draws primarily on complexity theory, critical political economy and climate and Earth system science to (i) ask what climate change means for insurance, (ii) ask if and how the insurance system might be geared to effective and just mitigation of climate change, and (iii) reflect on the use of theory in this research towards further theory development.

Languages

  • Invented Languages

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
160605Environmental Politics40
050205Environmental Management30
160609Political Theory And Political Philosophy30

Memberships

Committee/Associations (relevant to research).

  • Fellow - Earth System Governance Network

Administrative

Administrative expertise

In my role as Teaching and Learning Coordinator I am leading GradSchool's work aimed at supporting teaching excellence across all of the University's online postgraduate coursework programs.

Teaching

Teaching keywords

  • Environmental Studies

Teaching expertise

Since 2012 I am Teaching and Learning Coordinator with GradSchool, the unit which administers all of the University's online postgraduate courswork programs.

I have served in Course Coordinator, Lecturer and Tutor roles since 2004 teaching Environmental Studies, Development Studies and Geography in the Discipline of Geography and Environmental Studies. In 2007-8, together with colleagues, I rewrote two courses, ENVS6525 Sustainability & Ecosystem Health and ENVS6530 Environmental Management.

In 2011 I was honoured with the Newcastle University Postgraduate Students' Association Online Teacher of the Year Award. That year I was also awarded a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence.

I have published journal articles and presented conference papers on the scholarship of teaching and learning, particularly in the area of online students sense of belonging to learning communities.

I completed a Graduate Certificate in the Practice of Tertiary Teaching in 2009 and am currently completing a Master of Leadership and Management in Education.

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Highlighted Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, Albrecht G, 'Ecological viability or liability?: Insurance system responses to climate risk', Environmental Policy and Governance, 21 112-130 (2011) [C1]
2010Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Climate change, carbon prices & insurance systems', International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 17 95-108 (2010) [C1]
2012Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'The political economy of addressing the climate crisis in the Earth system: Undermining perverse resilience', New Political Economy, 17 (2012) [C1]

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Chapter (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Reflexive mitigation of the Earth's economy', The Economic, Social and Political Elements of Climate Change, Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany 81-98 (2011) [B1]

Journal article (17 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2014Griffiths T, Connor T, Robertson B, Phelan L, 'Is Mayfield Pool saved yet? Community assets and their contingent, discursive foundations', Community Development Journal, 49 280-294 (2014) [C1]
2014Picasso V, Phelan L, 'The evolution of open access to research and data in Australian higher education', RUSC Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 11 128-141 (2014)
2014Carbone A, Ross B, Phelan L, Lindsay K, Drew S, Stoney S, Cottman C, 'Course evaluation matters: improving students' learning experiences with a peer-assisted teaching programme', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, (2014)
2013Connor T, Phelan L, 'Antenarrative and Transnational Labour Rights Activism: Making Sense of Complexity and Ambiguity in the Interaction between Global Social Movements and Global Corporations', Globalizations, (2013) [C1]
2013Phelan L, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'The Political Economy of Addressing the Climate Crisis in the Earth System: Undermining Perverse Resilience', New Political Economy, 18 198-226 (2013) [C1]
2013Phelan L, Jones H, Marlon JR, 'Bringing New Ph.D.s Together for Interdisciplinary Climate Change Research', Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 94 57-57 (2013) [C3]
2012Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'The political economy of addressing the climate crisis in the Earth system: Undermining perverse resilience', New Political Economy, 17 (2012) [C1]
2012Phelan LP, McGee JS, Gordon RB, 'Cooperative governance: One pathway to a stable-state economy', Environmental Politics, 21 412-431 (2012) [C1]

Co-authors: Jeffrey Mcgee

2012Phelan LP, 'Interrogating students' perceptions of their online learning experiences with Brookfield's critical incident questionnaire', Distance Education, 33 31-44 (2012) [C1]
2012Phelan LP, 'Assessment is a many splendoured thing: Fostering online community and lifelong learning', European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 1 1-12 (2012) [C1]
2012Phelan LP, 'Politics, practices, and possibilities of open educational resources', Distance Education, 33 279-282 (2012) [C3]
2012Phelan LP, 'Clean Energy, Climate and Carbon [Book Review]', Air Quality and Climate Change, 46 13 (2012) [C3]
2011Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, Albrecht G, 'Ecological viability or liability?: Insurance system responses to climate risk', Environmental Policy and Governance, 21 112-130 (2011) [C1]
2011Phelan LP, 'Managing climate risk: Extreme weather events and the future of insurance in a climate-changed world', Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 18 223-232 (2011) [C1]
2010Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Climate change, carbon prices & insurance systems', International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 17 95-108 (2010) [C1]
2010Phelan LP, 'What to make of COP 15?: A ringside report', Air Quality and Climate Change, 44 14-15 (2010) [C3]
2010Phelan LP, 'All hands to the pump: Notes from NCCARF's 2010 International Climate Adaptation Futures Conference', Air Quality and Climate Change, 44 16-17 (2010) [C3]
Show 14 more

Conference (5 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011Phelan L, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Mitigation of the Earth's Economy: A Viable Strategy for Insurance Systems', ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ELEMENTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE, ELECTR NETWORK (2011) [E1]
2010Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Political economy of social-ecological systems in crisis: Sharpening theory tools for praxis', Political economy of social-ecological systems in crisis: Sharpening theory tools for praxis, New Orleans (2010) [E1]
2010Phelan LP, 'Engaging online: Potential for deploying Brookfield's Critical Incident Questionnaire to support the online learning experience', Rethinking Learning in Your Discipline. Proceedings of the University Learning and Teaching Futures Colloquium, 2010, Armidale, NSW (2010) [E3]
2010Phelan LP, 'Structuring for sustainable assessment: Case study of a disaggregated interdisciplinary assessment task from environmental studies', Rethinking Learning in Your Discipline. Proceedings of the University Learning and Teaching Futures Colloquium, 2010, Armidale, NSW (2010) [E3]
2009Phelan LP, Henderson-Sellers A, Taplin R, 'Blood on the floor: Political economy of social-ecological systems in crisis', Earth System Governance: People, Places, and the Planet: Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Amsterdam (2009) [E1]
Show 2 more

Other (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2014Sherval M, Phelan L, 'Opinion: Clever Country Dreams Fade', ( pp.19). Newcastle: Newcastle Herald (2014)

Co-authors: Meg Sherval

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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants1
Total funding$219,552

- Indicates that the researcher may be seeking students for this project.

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

2014 (1 grants)

Learning and Teaching Academic Standards (LTAS): Environment and Environmental Sustainability – ID13-2819$219,552
Funding Body: Office for Learning and Teaching

Project Team
Doctor Liam Phelan, Doctor Bonnie McBain
SchemeRole
Commissioned Strategic ProjectsChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$219,55220142014
GNo:G1301357
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Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions2
Total current UoN Masters EFTSL0.3
Total current UoN PhD EFTSL0.25

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Current Supervision

CommencedProposed
Completion
ProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
20142014M Philosophy (EnvironmentalSc)Co-SupervisorEvaluating a New Landuse Pattern Designed to Secure Soil and Water in Degraded Landscapes
20142018PhD (Aboriginal Studies)Co-SupervisorTurn the Switch On: The Potential Class and the Search for the Cultural Thread!
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Dr Liam Phelan

Work Phone(02) 492 16464
Fax(02) 492 18636
Email
PositionOnline Teaching & Learning Coordinator
GradSchool
Gradschool
Academic Division
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Focus AreaEducation
Office
IDC,
Industry Development Centre,
Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan NSW 2308
Australia
URL:www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/liam-phelan