National recognition for UWS academics

Pauline Ross, Geoff Scott & Roy Tasker

Professor Pauline Ross, Emeritus Professor Geoff Scott & Professor Roy Tasker

The University of Western Sydney's reputation as the home of the nation's best university teachers has been endorsed yet again with the Commonwealth Government awarding the University a quarter of the prestigious Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) 2014 Fellowships.

Emeritus Professor Geoff Scott, Professor Roy Tasker and Professor Pauline Ross have each received a Fellowship to undertake strategic, high-profile projects which will advance learning and teaching not just at UWS, but in the national higher education sector.

UWS Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover says each recipient of the Fellowship has made a valuable contribution to teaching at UWS.

"The Office of Learning and Teaching Fellowships recognise outstanding individual achievements, but more importantly provide the resources to broaden the reach of these talented academics so all higher education teachers and in turn more students can benefit from their expertise and knowledge," says Professor Glover.

UWS dominated the pool of recipients - receiving three of only 12 OLT Fellowship available nationally in 2014.OLT Fellowships support individuals to undertake strategic programs, to develop their knowledge of the broader higher education environment in Australia and to practise and further develop their leadership skills.

The OLT Fellowships awarded to UWS in 2014 are:

National Senior Teaching Fellowship – Assuring the quality of achievement standards and their valid assessment in Australian Higher Education, Emeritus Professor Geoff Scott ($250,000)

Australia benefits greatly from a national and international reputation for high academic standards and high quality universities, courses and graduates. When questions are raised in this area, they are often associated with assessment and how you are assessed defines the curriculum under which you study. Assessment has the potential to be used as a strategic tool by educators that can define the learning that will be achieved and guide students into effective approaches for study.  Equally, poorly designed assessment has the potential to hinder learning and stifle curriculum innovation. This senior fellowship will develop the capacity of the sector to ensure that the quality of graduates being produced by our universities is relevant to the rapidly changing needs of the 21st century. The fellow will consider how multiple reference points might best be used to ensure the graduate capabilities developed in different fields of education are both relevant and desirable. This work will begin with a user-tested design process at the University of Western Sydney and following this, learnings, enhanced through international benchmarking, will be used to deliver workshops across the country to be followed by a national conference on what has been learnt.

National Senior Teaching Fellowship – Evidence-informed, best practice visualisation for a deep understanding of science, Professor Roy Tasker ($250,000)

Learning science involves imagination and modelling of imperceptible phenomena, such as molecular events, force fields and energy changes, to explain observable phenomena (eg: smells) and this allows the creation of new insights. Visualisation of these imperceptible phenomena is the key to making meaning from the symbolism and mathematics in science that too often alienates novice students. This senior fellowship will lead a national conversation on visualisation in university science, informed by a cognitive science search on the factors determining how the brain perceives, process, stores and receives audiovisual information. In a series of workshops, participants will experience best practice as they learn good design principles for visualisations and strategies for how to use them in their teaching.  In follow-up workshops, students will apply what they have learnt to design their own visualisations of challenging threshold concepts.

National Teaching Fellowship – Reconceptualising the academic role in the sciences, Professor Pauline Ross ($90,000)

Higher education and academics are under an onslaught of pressures. To create the student and academic success desired to reconfigure the higher education landscape, the academic role needs to differentiate. This fellowship will reconceptualise the academic role and create a framework to evaluate academic teaching in the sciences. The lack of differentiation in the academic role is being felt acutely by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines where the pervasive emphasis has been on research. Declining enrolments and perceived falling standards of STEM graduates, both nationally and internationally, raises concerns about the future pipeline of STEM graduates and a public that is well disposed towards science. The fellowship with involve work with higher education institutions, peak bodies, senior leaders in disciplinary research and teaching and early-mid career academics. It we reconceptualise the academic role in the sciences and create an evaluation framework to ensure Australia has excellent academics in STEM into the future.

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