Melanie Roberts, from the School of Allied Health Sciences in Griffith Health is the winner of a 2019 Excellence in Teaching – Group Active Learning Award.

What motivates and inspires you in your teaching? 

I am motivated by the passion, creativity, openess, enthusiasm and engagement of our student body. I learn something new from each class I teach, which inspires me to keep innovating my teaching approach. I am also motivated by the exceptional educators I am surrounded by in my team, school and group.

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? 

New technologies have allowed us in occupational therapy to adopt a flipped learning approach, that supports a more student-centred and active learning experience. Using a blended learning approach to the curriculum has changed the way we interact and engage with our students, both in and out of class. Technology has also supported our ability to gain responsive feedback from students on teaching and learning in real time, and provide efficient and high quality student feedback on assessment.

How do the active and authentic learning experiences in your courses prepare students for their future careers? 

Active learning helps me to intentionally facilitate student engagement with course content, between students, and with educators. Active learning is a student-centred approach which helps me promote successful learning, as students are processing content for themselves. I use active approaches to deepen learning, and to build student’s capacities to manage their own learning. In combination with active strategies that promote collaboration, I also use authentic approaches where students are motivated to learn in rich, relevant and real-world contexts. I use authentic learning to provide the opportunity for realistic problem-solving processes that reflects the way the knowledge will be used in the real world. As a result of active and authentic approaches my students gain the professional knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need to practice in the real world.

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?  

I have learnt that students have a huge capacity to partner with educators to create engaging learning experiences. I know that taking time to create a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment, that actively engages students in the learning activities, achieves the best learning outcomes. I have learnt that students value educators who take risks and try new things, while the new strategy may not work, it is important to continue to innovate the way we practice. This shows students that we all have experiences where things don’t go as we expected, but it is how we learn from them that matters most!

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? 

My advice is to do your homework. Attend a workshop, observe a colleague, engage with the scholarship, and prepare yourself with theoretical and practice knowledge about the innovation. This places you in the best position for success and means your planning, implementation and evaluation of the new approach can be carefully considered. And tell the students you are trying something new, they are usually pretty understanding to your efforts!

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

I’m looking forward to taking a more scholarly approach to a course that I have been teaching for a while. I’ve had some time for reflection and see a place for a better integration of research evidence with the skills and knowledge taught. I’m also looking forward to implementing some of the strategies identified in a recent honours project I supervised that investigated an aspect of threshold concepts teaching, with specific teaching strategies identified by student occupational therapists for occupational therapy programs/educators.

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

Engage with all the programs on offer at Learning Futures such as the workshops, modules, PET, & PACES. I would also suggest participating in the HEA program, as this provided me with an opportunity for reflection on practice, engagement with literature and other academics, which can transpire into enhancing teaching practice.  I also think observing colleagues teach or co-teaching with colleagues is a really powerful way to develop your teaching practice. I also think engaging with the GLTA through communities of practice and other forums, helps to broaden your networks to assist with enhancing teaching.