VU lecturers awarded citations for student learning

On October 2, Victoria University's Dr Thinh Nguyen and Ms Sally Webster were recognised for their achievements in the Office of Learning and Teaching Citations for outstanding contributions to student learning 2012.

The Citations have a prize value of $10,000, and recognise and reward the diverse contributions made by individuals and teams to the quality of student learning.

Thinh, who lectures in engineering, physics and photonics in the School of Engineering and Science, received his Citation for "promoting and supporting self-directed and autonomous learning in students through the application of learner-centred techniques that include problem-based learning, peer-learning and just-in-time teaching".

Sally, who has recently moved from the University of Canberra to VU's School of Communications and the Arts, received her citation for "creating a culture of trust and respect through engagement agreements: inspiring and motivating marketing communication students to develop professional standards".

Thinh is VU through and through, having studied here for his Bachelor of Science (Optoelectronics), Bachelor of Science (Hon) (Physics) and Doctor of Philosophy (Photonics).

During the past three years, he has developed peer mentoring programs, problem-based learning exercises, overhauled curriculum and developed new ways to engage students in their assignments.

Thinh feels a strong responsibility to ensure his engineering students are engaged in their studies and has developed innovative methods to ensure his students remain absorbed and motivated.

Believing the traditional teaching approach of lecturing with little student participation was not maximising the learning process, he introduced a number of teaching initiatives that have radically changed the way his engineering students are learning.

Second and third-year engineering students now mentor their first-year counterparts in an informal setting outside class time. The program's success is largely attributed to the way seasoned students can relate to the struggles of those just beginning their engineering degrees.

He also introduced problem based learning exercises into other subjects. Students are presented with a problem that they learn to solve by designing their own experiments and through trial and error.

All the evidence points to his interventions being a roaring success – attendance rates in his classes have risen, failure rates have dropped, and students' average marks have improved.

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said, "These Citation Awards re-affirm the crucial role teachers and staff play delivering quality education and improving the student learning experience in Australian universities. A university education is about more than text books and exams – these initiatives will improve the overall learning experience which is necessary for students to participate successfully in higher education."

Sally Webster said her citation recognised the work she has done in teaching future marketers about the value of engagement agreements in reaching professional standards in marketing and communications.

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