In the lead up to the Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching awards, we will be profiling all the Highly Commended Finalists over the coming weeks.
This week, we take a look at the amazing staff from the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences.
Associate Professor Naomi Sweller
For the past 10 years, Associate Professor Naomi Sweller has convened, lectured and tutored third year, fourth year, and Masters-level statistics to aspiring Psychologists. In her experience, she has found that Psychology students typically dread statistics. Nevertheless, statistical literacy is crucial to the Scientist-Practitioners we wish our graduates to become. These learning barriers create a significant challenge that she joyfully embraces.
“My teaching philosophy centres on the key goal of making complex content accessible to students. I scaffold and guide students’ learning by creating a safe environment to ask questions, and providing meaningful, personalised feedback,” she says.
“I guide my students in cultivating integral skills they never knew they needed including the ability to analyse, interpret, and effectively communicate statistics. My students graduate no longer statistics-avoidant, expressing amazement that somebody made the material so accessible, and even enjoyable.
“I am personally invested in inspiring my students in their journey through statistics. Although students entering psychology rarely recognise the need for advanced statistical knowledge, our graduates require excellent critical thinking and research skills, with a firm foundation of discipline-relevant expertise. Through enthusiastic, passionate teaching, I motivate my students into a new appreciation of statistics.”
Dr Jasmina Vrankovic
Dr Jasmina Vrankovic has been a casual academic in the Department of Psychology for the past seven years and is a passionate, dedicated, and enthusiastic teacher who finds teaching both rewarding and inspiring.
“As a Macquarie Psychology graduate myself, I observed first-hand how many students struggle with compulsory units that focus primarily on science, statistics, and psychometrics as they find them difficult, dry, and overly theoretical – something that I try to overcome through my teaching,” Jasmina says.
“My teaching philosophy involves using multimodal, captivating, and applied teaching methods to foster a learning environment that stimulates students’ curiosity, improves learning, and encourages application of learning. I have been able to do this by continuously adapting my teaching based on my own student experience, my career as a researcher and clinical neuropsychologist, as well as student feedback.
“I provide extensive constructive feedback and feedforward. This addresses students’ strengths and weaknesses, poses questions that promote critical thinking, provides ideas for improving performance, and gives clear direction for areas to work on for future development.”
Associate Professor Kevin Brooks
Associate Professor Kevin Brooks believes that students’ perceptual experiences form their preconceptions of the way the world works. He uses his teaching to actively challenge these notions.
“I encourage renewed questioning of the environment around them and the things they take for granted. I foster engagement by encouraging all students to be researchers in their approach to learning, helping them to develop skills in critical thinking and information analysis/synthesis,” he says.
“Research-based activities in courses at all levels develop the habits of lifelong learning, but before learning must come the motivation to learn. Educational Psychologists distinguish two forms of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. While extrinsically motivated students may wish to learn simply to pass the Perception unit and become qualified clinicians, intrinsically motivated students wish to learn because learning is rewarding in itself.
“By adding live, physical demonstrations and stimulating illusions, presented with my trademark ‘contagious’ enthusiasm, I strive to create a fascination that will motivate students to enquire further.”
Dr Rimante Ronto
Early career award
Dr Rimante Ronto is a dedicated lecturer, convenor and tutor within the Department of Health Systems and Populations. She has taught a variety of different students from different backgrounds, including international students whom, she has found, may struggle to find work due to a lack of knowledge of the public health system in Australia.
“I engage students by exploring the scope of work they can do in public health and by creating ‘real-world’ relevance,” she says.
“For example, I invite guest speakers currently working in public health to showcase the scope of public health work. We also review and analyse public health job ads highlighting their links to achieving unit learning outcomes. Finally, I encourage the regular utilisation of Twitter as an activity to engage students and help build their professional networks.
“Drawing on my own personal experience from when I was an international student, I enthusiastically embrace challenges and provide transformative, professionally-focused learning experiences to create job-ready graduates ready to fulfil their dream of improving people’s lives.”
Sessional staff award
Since she started tutoring undergraduate Psychology four years ago, Tamara Paulin has seen interest in the field soar. In 2018, she had the opportunity to develop online materials for courses as part of extending Macquarie’s Psychology offering to include remote-study options. At the core of those endeavours was the mission to deliver an online experience that matches the experience on-campus. That work became particularly important this year with the broad transition to online learning.
“My teaching ethos involves cultivating a welcoming and empowering learning environment. Setting and maintaining a positive, enthusiastic tone online is important as we need students to feel comfortable engaging in online discussion of the content so we can monitor their learning,” she says.
“Online learning can become isolating and overwhelming fast. It is important that we create an online community with a consistent tutor presence on iLearn, that is reinforced by frequent contact via email. Visibility reassures students that tutors are accessible.
“Students need to trust their tutors to feel comfortable actively seeking help. Reliability, proactive support, and a demonstrated understanding of the student experience all help to bridge the distance between tutors and students online, and are important determinants of student happiness and success.”
This group of dedicated women is responsible for the establishment of the Connected Curriculum for Professionals in Health (CC) initiative, an initiative that ensures students have access to high-quality resources for learning.
“The CC initiative has brought together teaching academics and students across the faculty to create an online repository of a broad range of high-quality, evidence-based educational modules that support student learning across disciplines,” explains Morwenna.
“To ensure inclusivity and broad applicability, the CC Governance Committee oversees the initiative, including staff and student representatives from across all courses in the faculty. Members pitch new modules, co-design cross-disciplinary, interprofessional content, recruit faculty subject matter experts to contribute, and provide annual review of modules to ensure currency of content.
“CC is not only an innovative initiative – it is a well utilised resource, ensuring we do not duplicate content across units and courses in our faculty. This initiative has fostered collaboration and inclusivity in our faculty. It is a sustainable resource that provides immense ongoing benefits to students, staff and our institution.”
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we reveal all our Highly Commended Finalists and share details on when the winners will be announced.