Teaching context and philosophy
As a medical graduate, I was attracted to an academic career because of a strong desire to teach the next generation of doctors and biomedical researchers, as well as a fascination with the discipline of Pathology (the study of diseases). My approach to teaching is based on a genuine concern for the learning and development of students, as well as helping to make learning fun, despite the gravity of the subject matter in Pathology.
Through experience, it became evident to me that students’ learning outcomes were influenced more by factors related to curriculum, assessment and the learning environment than by the (nevertheless important) quality of face-to-face teaching. Therefore, I actively sought and obtained leadership roles in curriculum reform in my Department, School and Faculty, as well as bringing scientific rigour to the development, implementation and evaluation of eLearning resources and innovative formative and summative assessments.
Facilitating students’ learning is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of my working life. My practice emphasises active learning through case-based discussion. The focus is on the relevance of Pathology (the scientific basis of disease) to clinical practice. Students work together to interpret clinical presentations and receive feedback on their conceptions (plus a liberal sprinkling of bad puns!). I have also led the development of online resources and tools to facilitate and assess students’ learning:
- The BEST (Biomedical Education Skills and Training) Network, an Australian and international online community of teachers and students. BEST provides online access to thousands of high-quality biomedical images (which can be annotated individual or collaboratively) via the Slice image bank, as well as adaptive tutorials shared by academics.
- Virtual microscopy adaptive tutorials, which facilitate students’ understanding of appearances of diseased tissues, as well as remediating misconceptions;
- eDiagnostic – based on presentations of ‘virtual patients’, the software enables students to formulate diagnostic hypotheses, order diagnostic tests and to interpret the results. Students’ attempts are compared with those of an expert in the field, including costs of diagnostic investigations;
- Web-based concept / knowledge mapping software, to assist students to integrate diverse concepts needed to understand clinical presentations of disease (or indeed any discipline). Students’ maps are compared to an expert map, resulting in provision of automated remedial feedback;
- An interactive ‘Images of Disease’ (IOD) app, which assists students’ understanding of the appearances of disease in a variety of tissues.
- Web-based formative assessments with automated feedback, which form the basis of feedback on students’ learning in all 8 courses in Phase 1 Medicine, as well a high-stakes online knowledge-based assessments in all Phases of the Medicine program;
- Online practical examinations in Histology, Embryology and Pathology. These are progressive assessments during Phase 1 Medicine, created on the Smart Sparrow platform. Each assessment save approx. 40 hrs of academics’ time compared with paper-based exams, provides greater reliability and enables richer feedback to students.