Canberra academics recognised in national teaching awards
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Canberra academics recognised in national teaching awards

When Joanne Wallis first started teaching at The Australian National University she realised many of her students were petrified about getting a job at the end of their degree.

Dr Wallis is a senior lecturer at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, specialising in Australia's interactions in the Pacific and international security, and saw many of her students pressured by employment outcomes.

From left, Dr Joanne Wallis, Jeremy Smith and Dr Alexandra Webb from the Australian National University each received a citation for excellence in the government's Australian Awards for University Teaching.

From left, Dr Joanne Wallis, Jeremy Smith and Dr Alexandra Webb from the Australian National University each received a citation for excellence in the government's Australian Awards for University Teaching.Credit:Stuart Hay

"I began thinking about how could I make my teaching more practical, of ways I could give them skills that would get them a job, help them prepare for study but also give them some transferable skills that would set them apart," Dr Wallis said.

She devised a crisis simulation for her students to participate in, working with former Chief of the Defence Force Chris Barrie, who is now an adjunct professor at the ANU, where students have to assume roles of government officials, whole governments, even rebels intent on stirring up trouble on a fictional Pacific Island.

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"Over a couple of weeks they simulate how the conflict unfolds," Dr Wallis said.

"They work out how the Australian government responds, how negotiations happen ... it's an opportunity for them to think about what they're learning and what that means in the real world."

It's this real world thinking that led Dr Wallis to being one of four Canberra academics recognised in the Federal Government's Australian Awards for University Teaching, announced on Wednesday.

She was listed for her innovative and interactive approaches to security education that provides students with an enriching experience and prepares them for a competitive workforce.

The ANU's Jeremy Smith, from the College of Engineering and Computer Science was listed for his leadership in the field of engineering through the development of a sector-leading enriching student humanitarian pathway.

Dr Alexandra Webb, from the College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, was listed for developing and implementing an integrated medical imaging curriculum.

The University of Canberra's assistant professor Rachel Bacon, from the Faculty of Health, was listed for her innovation, leadership and scholarship in work-integrated learning, preparing graduates for the workforce.

In announcing the awards, which recognised 109 university teachers nation-wide, Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said staff members from the successful universities were assisting in the creation of a world-class higher education system with an international reputation for excellence.

"Creativity and innovation in learning and teaching are the bedrock of a quality higher education system. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated people who consistently go above and beyond to deliver better teaching and student outcomes," Mr Birmingham said.

"Excellent teachers and their work deserve celebration to ensure even more Australians can benefit from the lessons they've learnt."

Thirty-six universities across the country featured in the citations showcasing innovation in student learning in education, health, arts and humanities, IT, business and science. The citations are awarded annually and valued at $10,000 each.

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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