Dr Chris Irwin, from the School of Allied Health Sciences in Griffith Health is the winner of a 2019 Griffith Group Learning and Teaching Citation.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
I am primarily motivated by the students I teach; particularly when they demonstrate a genuine interest and passion for learning and creating new knowledge. I am also motivated and inspired by the content area I teach; it’s easy to be enthusiastic about and deliver content (in this case nutrition) that I am genuinely interested in and enjoy teaching.
What have been the most effective pedagogical approaches you’ve implemented in your courses?
I find the most effective pedagogical approach is that which is learner-centred, where students play a significant role in the learning process; using prior knowledge and new experiences to create new knowledge. In most cases I look to employ an experiential, active and/or problem-based learning approach.
What kinds of strategies and approaches do you find inspire and motivate your students to learn, even if they are facing challenges?
I try to cultivate curiousity in students from the outset, whenever I am facilitating a course or learning activity. This typcially means employing learning experiences that are applied, student-centred and relevant to the ‘real-life’ context. I’m always concious of providing a supportive learning environment, to ensure students feel comfortable approaching me for guidance. I also like to provide timely and useful feedback for things like assessment tasks; I believe this is just as valuable to students’ learning as the assessment item itself.
Can you tell us more about the “Functional Food Development” problem based learning activity you have implemented?
This is an activity undertaken in my second-year Food Science course and involves students working in teams to take a novel food product idea from concept, through research and development, to consumer testing. Successful completion of the project requires an understanding of food regulation policy to ensure the new food complies with the Australian Food Standards Code, and is packaged appropriately with labelling that meets the requirements of Australian food laws. Students must also consider factors such as consumer insight or market trend, market opportunity, research to support functional claims and key quality attributes of their new food product, and sensory properties (i.e. taste, texture, mouthfeel) that contribute to the likelihood of the creation’s success as a consumer product. To enrich the student experience, I have obtained corporate sponsorship with a number of food industry partners for this activity.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice in 2020?
I would like to try adapting the ‘Functional Food’ problem-based learning activity a little to have students explore development of a novel food using more environmentally sustainable ingredients (e.g. insect protein) without compromising sensory properties and consumer acceptability.
What advice do you have for educators seeking recognition for their teaching practice?
Develop an application for a teaching citation or learning and teaching excellence award. This is the only way to get recognised amongst everyone else at the University. Don’t delay applications until you think you have achieved ‘teaching perfection’, because there’s no such thing. Also, seek advice from others who have been recognised previously for teaching awards; in almost every case great teachers are only too happy to provide assistance – that’s what makes them great teachers!