João Frias

Teaching and Learning

Statements and portfolio


The path of education

As part of my Training and Career Development Plan, I started the NFQ Level 9 Certificate in Teaching and Learning (T&L), a 30 credit, minor award qualification offered by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

This T&L course has enabled me to get acquainted with several educational theorists such as Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, to name a few.

The course is designed to enable educators/lecturers/facilitators to develop, deliver and review lessons in the context modular teaching. By using different educational tools (both online and offline), the educator/lecturer/facilitator is invited to critically reflect on their practice and to develop competences and skills in problem-based learning (PBL) and in teaching practice.

This section of my e-portfolio was designed to share the most relevant assessments developed throughout the T&L course, namely my personal educational philosophy; the lesson plans and the re-usable learning resource.


Teaching Philosophy

This section is the result of reflective research in educational theories, which ultimately lead to the paper “Improving learning experiences by using humanism and constructivism teaching approaches in the classroom”. In here I share the abstract and the references used for this reflective paper, while providing a link to the full document below.

Improving learning experiences by using Humanism and Constructivism teaching approaches in the classroom

 By João Frias


Learning, according to my teaching philosophy, is an active, evolving, engaging and constructive process aimed to address self-fulfillment needs, for both students and lecturers involved. The current research paper, more than a simple comparative literature review on educational theories, is also a reflection analysis that explores Humanism and Constructivism teaching approaches to the 21st century multicultural classroom. Engagement, encouragement and motivation are the key elements that will guide students to develop and/or improve their critical thinking skills while fostering a deeper understanding of a specific topic. The lecturer acts as a facilitator, providing tools and resources that allow the process of converting learning and reflections into understanding, using specific examples and exercises. As teaching strategies, I employ the use of visual examples using objects and/or learning materials about the topic being lectured, on-line interaction in the classroom using technology enhanced learning, provision of additional resources and tools on GMIT VLE Moodle page, peer-interaction, field trips, peer discussion groups, problem-based learning sessions and personal reflection assignments. Such strategies motivate students to have a positive attitude towards their learning environment, while creating a sense of responsibility, awareness and respect towards their peers and lecturers, which are essential to promote a safe and relaxed learning environment. Humanism theories alongside with social and cognitive constructivism form the core of my teaching values and are the pillar of daily classroom interactions in a multicultural environment.


Pedagogy, teaching strategies, educational theories, teaching philosophy, education system, multiculturalism


Planning and preparing

This section contains the lesson plans used as assessments for the T&L certificate.

Each lesson plan contains:

  • Aims of the lesson

  • Learning outcomes

  • Lesson activities

  • Teaching resources

  • Critical reflection on the lesson

Five examples of lesson plans are available here:


Lectures and Resources

This section focus on lectures and the resources used to engage with the student audience during the delivery of the lecture. Each lecture followed a combination of several approaches to teaching and learning, namely problem-based learning activities, flipped classroom, field trips and peer discussion workshops.

Some of the resources used during lectures are available for download or access below:


Re-usable learning object

These are some of the examples of re-usable learning resources to support teaching and learning experiences in natural sciences concerning the topic of marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution.


Assessment tools

My teaching has a strong component of experimental learning through hands-on experiences via outdoor classrooms in the field or in research vessels. This includes site visits, field-trips either to local beaches or to Galway Bay. Assessment of students was mainly conducted via submission of personal reflection on the hands-on lectures. Besides personal reflections, students were asked to provide testimonials of experiences, being either assessment of the on-line survey on marine litter and microplastics, or on the field trip in Galway bay on board of the Research Vessel Celtic Voyager. Below are examples of those testimonials:

Student testimonials

This section explores the personal reflections of students.

Permission has be given by the student to showcase their testimonials in this section.

To be compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation, names were changed to protect personal data.

Online survey on marine litter and MICROPLASTIC pollution

Link to survey | Link to video about survey

This survey is a great way to assess the knowledge of the general public, students included, as it is designed in an easy to understand format. It’s a long survey, but I understand that Joao want to get as much information as possible from people. If there was a way to move forward in the survey without answering the questions that may have been nice as you can see visually what kind of work lies ahead in the pages. It is also a good way for the general public to think about the marine litter problem that we are facing globally.

Student A, PhD candidate


The online survey "Perceptions about marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution in Ireland" is a fine tool aimed at inquiring people about marine litter while allowing them to rethink lifestyle. The survey is well assembled to capture different social perceptions that students might have about marine litter, which is a big problem we are currently facing. The questions where extremely interesting and relevant in the present-day. I find this to be an excellent learning tool.


Student B, PhD candidate


The project was well explained and easy to understand.  I thought the survey was well laid out and clear, plus the images made it aesthetically pleasing and informative.  The questions were well thought-out and made the person taking the survey think through the options. I enjoyed taking the survey, I think it was fit for purpose and am interested in the results!

Student C, PhD candidate


The content and structure of the online survey questionnaire as part of the IMP.act Project cover topics about the sources, accumulation areas, types, sizes, causes and effects of marine litter and microplastics pollution, as well as the rates of plastic production, recycling, decomposition, and degradation. Some examples of market-based instruments and other initiatives currently in place and the willingness of the respondents to take part in it has been also tackled. The last part was interesting as it provides information of successful projects being implemented not just in Ireland but other parts of Europe, in which the questions could gather views of people regarding its feasibility and replicability within some specified target areas. In terms of length, the number of questions and time spent in completing the survey, I find it quite longer than usual. There are also some questions that were similar and repetitive, however, I can fully understand that this kind of questionnaire’s structure is necessary to determine whether the respondents are giving full attention while answering it and if they thoroughly read and properly answered the questions depending on their perception.In general, I am convinced that the IMP.act Online Survey would be able to attain its aim which is to assess the thoughts, opinions, and perceptions of respondents about marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution in Ireland.


Student D, International MSc Student

Celtic Voyager Day Trip Survey

Link to the blog of the Marine Institute Scientists@Sea

Joao was extremely prepared for the Celtic Voyager teaching cruise. Before the cruise, students were well-informed of all tasks and responsibilities. All tasks were thoroughly outlined and explained to us. He was very approachable when we had any questions. His adaptability to the differing weather conditions in relation to our sample collection abilities were fantastic. The clear organization of the day was helpful and made for a smoothly run sampling experience. I absolutely enjoyed this learning experience.

Student A, PhD candidate


I partook in João’s microplastics cruise on board the R/V Celtic Voyager in February 2019. João provided excellent demonstrations in the assembly and deployment of monitoring and sampling equipment for marine microplastics, specifically the manta trawl for surface water samples, the box corer for sediment samples, as well as beam trawl for collection of benthic fauna. I learned a lot from my time there, and having never been at sea before, am eager to return on a similar cruise with João.

Student E, PhD candidate


I had the chance to take part on the assessment of microplastic hotspots in Galway Bay on board the RV Celtic Voyager in February 2019. This research initiative is part of the IMP.act Research Project in which one of the aims is to identify the hotspots of accumulation and distribution patterns of microplastics (MP) in Galway Bay and its environs. Samples from different environmental compartments such as water surface, sediment, and biota were taken from the strategically defined sampling locations within the bay, using various sampling materials including the manta trawl, the beam trawl, and the Reineck box corer. This research cruise has given me an opportunity to enhance my understanding and gain valuable skills in relation to microplastic research through on-board/fieldwork training as well as exposure to advance and state-of-the-art facilities.

Student D, International MSc Student

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T&L reflections

This section includes reflections based on T&L lectures and showcases