UQ professors bag teacher of the year award

UQ professors bag teacher of the year award

Across Australia, higher education professionals share the critical responsibility of ensuring all students get the highest quality educational experiences so they can become successful and inspired graduates.

However, some are going above and beyond to have a game-changing impact on Australia’s higher education landscape.

Last year, The Educator profiled 30 higher education professionals at the top of their game when the inaugural Higher Education Hot List was announced.

Last week, university teachers who are going above and beyond to improve student learning outcomes were again recognised on the national stage through the Universities Australia Conference.

Social and behavioural sciences professors from the University of Queensland bagged the 2019 Australian University Teacher of the Year award for their project which increased attendance and engagement of their students.

Associate Professor Blake McKimmie, Professors Barbara Masser and Mark Horswill were recognised for making use of novel dramatic narrative in their online and in-class sessions to sustain their students’ motivation throughout the course.

These professors made a whodunnit movie, titled ‘Who killed Janine Jenker?’, to supplement their teaching of the Psychology of Criminal Justice course after lecture attendance dropped to 30% and only 10% of students tuned it to recorded lectures.

The film would only be shown in parts during each class and would be followed by tests and weekly in-class assessments to ensure that students would be engaged in learning.

Associate Professor McKimmie and Professors Masser and Horswill saw class attendance rise to 90% while weekly online quiz scores also improved by 87%. Tests that were taken in class, meanwhile, also improved by 25%.

Professor McKimmie said that effective teaching means that there needs to have a balance of student engagement, learning and satisfaction.

He also said that through making a movie they sent clear message that they want their students to be present in class.

UQ proved to be the most awarded university, with its university staff from other programs also receiving recognition.

The University’s Indigenous Health Education and Workforce Development Team and the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law’s Student Employability Team won awards for their programs that enhance learning.

The former was recognised for developing health and medicine education curricula suitable for Indigenous health while the latter bagged the award for their exceptional delivery of employability programs.

Meanwhile, four other teaching staff received citations for their outstanding contributions to student learning.

How other teachers enhanced learning

While the winning teachers managed to hook in more students to attending classes, another professor proved that distance education still has its merits.

Another awardee under the Teaching Excellence category, CQ University Professor Kate Ames was noted to have a track record for boosting student outcomes of those who had come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and using distance education.

Professor Ames also now serves as the University’s director for Learning Design and Innovation Directorate, where she helps other staff work on innovative distance learning programs to boost access to education. 

University provost Professor Helen Huntly said that Professor Ames has taught over 7,000 students through the course of her career. Aside from producing industry-standard learning outcomes, her classes would post above-average pass rates and student satisfaction as well as reduced attrition.

Professor Ames said that making classes engaging for distance students is still possible, especially with the technological advances.

Unlike past classes where teachers can only reach out to students through print outs and teleconferences, Professor Ames said that her students now engage with her through social media as well.  

University of Wollongong teachers, who had received citations for their contributions to student learning, focussed on how improving their connection with their students.

Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences Associate professor Montserrat Ros received citation for her efforts to improve the first-year learning experience of students while international studies lecturer Dr Hironori Onuki was recognised for employing diverse teaching styles to adjust to his students’ backgrounds and needs.

Senior Lecturer Dr Sasha Nikolic, also from the Faculty of Engineering, focussed on a research-led practice to help bridge learning and career.