Top teachers recognised in Australian Awards for University Teaching

25 Feb 2020 | 3 mins

Four UWA academics have won 2020 Australian Awards for University Teaching to recognise their innovative and engaging contributions to student education.

Associate Professor Christopher Etherton-Beer and Dr Demelza Ireland from UWA’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Dr Zhangxin (Frank) Liu from UWA’s Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education, and Dr Nicola Mitchell from UWA’s Faculty of Science were presented with awards for their contribution to enhancing the student and teaching experience.

The Australian Awards for University Teaching, administered by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, celebrate quality teaching practices that contribute to a change in learning and teaching through ongoing knowledge sharing. Dr Ireland is one of only seven recipients of an Award for Teaching Excellence – Early Career.

Dr Ireland has led the design and delivery of a series of broadening units in women’s health, expanding them to socially relevant and engaging topics. Her work combines health with humanities in a way that provides opportunities for students to gain and create knowledge that is useful to them.

It also allows students to work on rewarding projects that have an impact on community health. Associate Professor Etherton-Beer received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for his work leading innovations to deliver educational resources that have advanced education in medicine, particularly in relation to stroke and aged care.

He designed an online health education program called e-ageing that has helped students learn about common age-related conditions. It is now widely used by health professionals around the world.

Dr Nicki Mitchell, who co-leads UWA’s Conservation Biology programs, was recognised with a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for her teaching and engagement of more than 2000 first-year biology students in citizen science.

Her students contributed to a citizen science program documenting the ways plants and animals respond to climate change. They then analysed national datasets – appraising data quality, writing articles and peer reviewing each other’s work – ultimately leading to online publication of their original research.

Dr Zhangxin (Frank) Liu received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for creating interactive learning experiences to engage students. Dr Liu is a senior lecturer in Finance at the UWA Business School and Fellow of the Centre for Business Data Analytics, where he works in asset pricing, corporate finance and blockchain research.

His teaching focuses on innovative ways to improve the student experience by using creative elements such as surprise and humour to engage students.

Associate Professor Carmela Pestell from UWA's School of Psychological Science was part of a team led by Deakin University that won an award for ‘Programs that Enhance Learning’. Their project Risk Aware: Enhancing students’ clinical competence in risky environments through a blended simulation-based learning program has benefited post-graduate trainees studying psychological science. The project also included collaboration with Australian Catholic University, Flinders University, The University of Adelaide, University of New England and University of Southern Queensland.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater congratulated the recipients.

“Teachers who engage with students and spark their interest in learning create and develop academic success, and help change lives by extending the range of the possible,” Professor Freshwater said.

“The people honoured in this year’s awards are an example to all of us. Their commitment, energy and enthusiasm is vital to the future of our University.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony held in Canberra as part of the Universities Australia Higher Education Conference.

Media references

Jess Reid (UWA Media Adviser) 08 6488 6876

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