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Top teachers take a bow

by Michèle Nardelli

Carrick winners: Dr Carol Grech, Assoc Prof Eimear Muir-Cochrane and Dr Jyothi ThalluriUniSA has secured eight citations for teaching excellence as part of the 2007 Carrick Awards, two more than last year.

This year more than 200 Carrick Awards have been granted to staff at universities and other tertiary education institutions across Australia. The citations include a grant of $10,000 for the winners.

Each institution can submit 10 nominations for the awards.

This year’s UniSA winners have been acknowledged for their dedication and commitment, innovation and expertise across a broad range of study areas from nursing and pharmacy through to communications and information science.

In the Division of Health, the winners are Dr Carol Grech and Associate Professor Eimear Muir-Cochrane (nursing and midwifery); Dr Jyothi Thalluri (pharmacy), and Sue Gilbert Hunt (health sciences).

In the Division of Education Arts and Social Sciences,
Dr Ioana Petrescu (communications) and David Badenoch (education) won citations. And the winners in the Division of IT Engineering and the Environment are Dr Syed Mahfuzul Aziz and a team in computer information science that includes Kirsten Wahlstrom, Sue Tyerman and Rebecca Witt.

Dr Peter Hill, UniSA lecturer academic development (teaching awards and grants), said the awards were a great reflection on the dedication of staff to delivering the best learning outcomes for students.

"There is strong competition for these awards, so to have eight successful citations is a great credit to the University and to the winners," Dr Hill said.

"It is clear that strengthening our commitment to teaching practice is paying off and that around the University there is a renewed commitment to improving the entire student learning experience.

"The other aspect of these awards is that they encourage all university staff to provide leadership in developing good learning outcomes. Academics, professional staff members, and sessional staff are all eligible."

Dr Thalluri, Dr Grech and Prof Muir-Cochrane said the awards were a great recognition of the importance of excellence in teaching.

"My own focus has been to make the transition to university smoother by enhancing the first-year experience," Dr Thalluri, senior lecturer in pharmacy said.

"In that first year at uni, many students need support to become more self-directed in their learning. I also like to encourage peer support in my classes so that the learning is more than simply academic, it is a broader cultural and social experience."

Prof Muir-Cochrane said mental health nurse education need to deliver work-ready graduates.

"Our approach is to place a strong emphasis on developing students’ critical thinking skills," she said. "We also engage them in evidence-based learning activities and carefully designed clinical experiences so that when they graduate they have a much stronger notion of the demands of mental health nursing."

And for Dr Carol Grech, who is heavily involved with nursing education for international students, good teaching is about student empowerment.

"International nursing students who come to UniSA not only take on a challenging academic load, they must also deal with the demands of a new cultural environment," she said.

"My contribution to best practice teaching and learning with this student population has been to develop programs that support overseas-trained nurses to adapt their existing knowledge and skills to the Australian healthcare context. It smooths their transition to the workplace so they can provide top quality healthcare."

Dr Hill said the exciting aspect of all the Carrick Award winners has been their dedication and innovation.

"In all instances it is a care for student outcomes and that teacher’s desire to see their students succeed that motivates new and better ways of teaching at UniSA," he said. "All the winners have shown an ability to adapt to diverse student populations and new generations of students. They have put students first - and that’s what it is all about."