Dr Vinod Gopalan is the winner of an Australian Awards for University Teaching 2018 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for enhancing student engagement in learning histopathology through development of approaches that are authentic, industry informed and underpinned with scholarly activities. 

What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?  

Inspired by WB Yeats who said that, ‘Education is not the filling of pail, but the lighting of a fire’, my primary objective as a teacher is to become a light source for all my students, not only to learn pathology but also to apply their learning to engage safely, effectively and professionally within their respective practices. 

What have been the most effective pedagogical approaches you’ve implemented in your courses?  

I have adopted approaches of ‘contextualised learning’ allows students to relate abstract ideas to practical applications in the context of the real world, a proficiency required for every practising health professional. Using this approach, I have introduced self-directed and problem-based learning skills as well as collaborative group learning, which is often challenging given the diversity of student cohorts in terms of their prior knowledge, learning preferences and career aspiration.

Teaching candidiasis (fungal infection) through students’ own histological staining on diseased tissues (an approach used by contextualised learning) 

What kinds of strategies and approaches do you find inspire and motivate your students to learn, even if they are facing challenges?  

My teaching approaches are designed with unprejudiced expectations of prior-knowledge in students (inspired by the ‘white library’ from Mona Museum, Hobart). This approach makes students comfortable in attending the teaching sessions (small or large) with no expectations of ‘being prepared beforehand’. This is a challenge in medical education as >50% of the students are not from a direct science background.  

I inspire and motivate students to attend learning sessions by including small changes such as white-board drawings, integrating multimedia, incorporating self-assessment activities using multiple-choice questions, crosswords, labelling exercises, etc.

Re-introduction of whiteboard drawings to make learning experience more interactive.  

A good reflection on my inspiration to students was evident during the MD graduate awards ceremony, when students stated that “For a causality of the cohort’s inability to grasp pathology, Vinod is an absolute trooper who is the sole reason most of us know anything about anything under a microscope” (Pink & Purple Heart Award- 2016).  

What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice in 2020?  

Recognising that geographical boundaries and different life/academic experiences affect student learning, my approach in coming years would be to integrate technology with current teaching underpinned with strong philosophical approaches to enhance both student learning experience and outcome in histopathology. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge or next big shift in learning and teaching?  

I think, integrating new technologies with the existing conventional mode of learning and teaching would be one of the biggest challenges in health education where it requires more hands-on training.  

What advice do you have for educators seeking recognition for their teaching practice?  

Make continuous improvements via constant evaluation of your teaching practices. This would significantly benefit to make own teaching and learning skills more effective.