Dr Vinod Gopalan, from the School of Medicine and School of Medical Science, received a 2018 Griffith Award for Excellence in Teaching for creating learning experiences that are authentic, industry informed and valued by employers of his medical laboratory science graduates.

We asked Vinod to tell us a bit more about his teaching practice and implementation of authentic and industry informed learning experiences for students.

Dr Vinod Gopalan in the pathology museum

What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?

My personal style of teaching is inspired from the works of David Walsh, a famous artist who put forward the concept of ‘white library’ in Mona Museum, Hobart, which deliberately avoid words in the books. My teaching approaches are designed with unprejudiced expectations of prior-knowledge in students, which matches with the concept of white library. This approach makes students comfortable in attending the teaching sessions (small or large) with no expectations of ‘being prepared beforehand’ which is a challenge in health education as many of these students have diverse past academic opportunities with different life/demographic experiences.

How have teaching practices in your discipline changed with the introduction of new technologies, and how has technology changed the way you interact and engage with your students?

My innovative teaching trials including virtual integration and novel 3D models in surgical pathology have attracted multiple peer-reviewed publications in journals with high international standing (pathology, pathology international etc.), book chapters and many learning and teaching grants. All these scholarly works have adopted the new technologies, which allow students to learn to teach contents in a flexible way. Changes in technology also allowed me to teach pathology virtually to medical and medical science students.

How have you created learning experiences for your students that are authentic and industry informed?

Applying my background knowledge in basic medicine and experience gained as a visiting scientist, I have introduced multiple dry and wet laboratory sessions in histology and pathology to create learning experiences for my students that are authentic and industry informed. My teaching approaches and student learning experiences are regularly peer-reviewed and benchmarked by National/International accreditation bodies such as Australian Medical Council, Australian Institute of Medical Scientists, Institute of Biomedical Science and Innovative Research University’s calibration process.

What have you learnt throughout your academic career about creating an engaging learning experience for students, and what have you learnt from experimenting with new approaches that didn’t quite work out? 

During my academic career, I have learnt that in medical/health education, a significant proportion of student disengagement with a subject can be resolved by modifying curriculum or its delivery by applying appropriate teaching philosophies to integrate the applications and relevance of teaching to practice. Many instances, new approaches cannot replace a good teacher. Instead, student learning experience would significantly improve if we complement these new approaches with good teaching skills with appropriate philosophical integration.

Given it isn’t always easy to innovate within a learning and teaching context, what advice do you have for colleagues looking to try something new in their teaching?

There is numerous literature evidence to suggest that technological advancements and innovations don’t always help students to obtain a better learning outcome. I would recommend new teachers to adopt more philosophical teaching style across the curriculum and try not to teach students for the tests or assessments.

What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?

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 advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice?

Continuous evaluation of your teaching practices would significantly benefit to make own teaching and learning skills more effective. A small example of my evaluation practices is listed below.

An example of Dr Vinod Gopalan’s evaluation practice