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21st Century Climate-Smart Forestry Education for Livelihood and Sustainability in South Africa

Updated: May 27, 2022

Text by Nelson Mandela University

FOREST21 is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. One million euros has been allocated to the Forest21 project for 2021–2024.

It includes eight HEIs from three countries. From South Africa, the following five HEIs that offer forestry education, are participating in this project: Nelson Mandela University (NMU); Stellenbosch University, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Venda; and Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Training Institute.

From Finland, two HEIs are participating: Häme University of Applied Sciences (Project coordinator); and Aalto University. One Norwegian HEI is participating: Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

21st century foresters need more than just forestry knowledge. They need to learn to think like foresters. They also need an entrepreneurial mindset which will enable them to identify and develop climate-smart forestry opportunities. Forestry Education in higher education institutions (HEIs) needs to enable, sustain and develop pathways for this to be realized,” says Dr Joy Alexander (Learning and Teaching Specialist, Nelson Mandela University).

Meet the Forest21 PBL Team

Jenny Clarence-Fincham, Nelson Mandela University

Joy Alexander, Nelson Mandela University

Tatenda Mapeto, Nelson Mandela University

Matleena Muhonen, Aalto University

Ulla-Maija Knuutti, HAMK University

Problem-based Learning and Teaching Development workshop in March 2022

One of the aims of the Forest21 project is capacity-building. Nelson Mandela University was tasked with leading the Problem-Based learning and teaching capacity-building of the South African HEIs in March 2022.

Professor Jenny Clarence-Fincham and Dr Joy Alexander (NMU LTCollab) led the conceptualization and delivery of the three-day Problem-Based Learning (PBL) workshop for forestry learning and teaching. The forestry discipline was contextualized and presented by Dr Tatenda Mapeto who is a forestry lecturer in the School of Natural Resources at NMU.

What was the main objective of the three-day PBL workshop?

The main objective of the three-day workshop was to engage participants (lecturers and managers in HEIs) with thinking deeply about moving forestry education more vigorously out of the traditional ways of learning, knowing and doing, into problem-based ways of learning and teaching so that student learning may encompass sustainable ways of knowing, doing and being entrepreneurial, climate smart ways of critical thinking foresters in the 21st century.

How did we conceptualize the workshop?

NMU framed the three-day workshop within a social reconstructionist framework of reflective practice. It provides a vital orientation for lecturers to negotiate more successfully the 21st century climate-smart changing contexts in which they teach and in which their students learn.

We set out to present and examine different aspects of PBL for lecturers to draw on their agency to focus on substantive learning and teaching issues which will help them examine the environmental, economic, social and political consequences of their teaching.

The main concept in our reflective framework was the scaffolding tool for lecturers who play an essential role in the foundational, reflective, reflexive, and practical development processes. The framework also acts as a model for lecturers to envision critical reflection more clearly on the nuanced complexities in forestry learning and teaching.

What was the programme of the workshop?

The PBL workshop was comprised of three sessions over a three-week period.

Each session was offered on two different days and in two different three-hour timeslots on the respective days. Six sessions were thus presented during the period 15 to 31 March 2022.

Tuesday sessions were conducted from 9.00 to 12.00 and the repeat sessions, on Thursdays, were conducted from 13.00 to 16.00. This timetable provided flexible scheduling.

All sessions were collaboratively facilitated via MS Teams. We used:

• Pre-reading resources

• Jamboard

• Mentimeter

• Powerpoint



  • Explain the focus of the project and summarize the Scandinavian context.

  • Identify key aspects of the South African contextual forestry narrative.

  • Offer a rationale for the choice of the selected student challenge.

  • Discuss the nature of the challenge.

  • Locate PBL within constructivist paradigm.


  • Examine the scope of the student challenge.

  • Identify PBL possibilities for university best practice and life-long humanist entrepreneurial acumen in the forestry industry.

  • Highlight the possibility of higher cognitive levels and task demands.

  • Illustrate varying task demands for student challenges at different NQF levels.


  • Reflections on the perspectives of Finnish and SA students who have already been engaged with in this PBL project.

  • Scaffolding: introduce/explore a ‘challenge’ with your students; what your students already know about the problem; definition of the broader problem that might not yet be known to your students; students’ research of the problem; students’ compilation of their list possible actions and solutions; students’ formulation and testing potential hypotheses; student’s presentation of their chosen solution. Create a plan to review your students’ performance.

Participant comments captured in interactive jamboard session 2:

Participant comments captured in interactive jamboard session 3:


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