Study investigating innovative teaching method highlights student involvement

Who would have thought a rendition of Adele's Hello by Physiotherapy student Emily Johnson would have assisted the School of Health and Science in discovering new ways to actively engage students in learning? A study conducted by Dr Tinashe Dune, a senior lecturer in Interprofessional Health Sciences, and her team, revealed that harnessing popular culture in learning methods encourages students involvement in producing educationally sound content.

Across 12 undergraduate Health Science programs, nearly 600 students were invited to develop parody- type videos on the importance of communication in a professional health practice as a supplement to content in Dr Dune's unit Communication in Health. In doing so, the Communication Idol study, published in the journal University Teaching and Learning Practice, found that learning through watching or making a video was as equally, if not, more effective than traditional ways of teaching for the majority of students.

Of the students that participated in the activity, Emily Johnson's video was awarded first place, winning a cash prize of $750. 

Dr Dune admits she was surprised with the results, saying she didn't anticipate that students would share her excitement. 

"Many times educators come up with interesting and innovative learning and teaching ideas but aren't sure if the students will be on board," she says.

In evaluating the task, several students agreed that producing videos increased their engagement with their coursework. One participant even went as far to say that "other universities tend to neglect the creative or artistic aspects of their students so it's great to see Western Sydney University engaging in learning this way."

Emily was thrilled to have been a part of the study. 

"I love all things music and was excited to be able to incorporate this into my science degree," she says.

"During the 10 hours it took to compile the video I found myself thinking in depth about the unit content. I think that the combination of Information set to music is among the easiest to remember."

Dr Dune believes that Emily's video showcases the extraordinary and untapped talent of the many students at Western Sydney University. 

"It is clear that those involved in the study are the key to the next era of learning and teaching as they are able to draw on their creativity, engage with popular culture and create educational content which excites their peers and academics," says Dr Dune.

"The work that the students have done as well as their excitement and enthusiasm is a great reminder of why I decided to become an academic – not only to teach but to continuously learn," Dr Dune says. 

After the Communication Idol study, Dr Dune hopes that others will also start to think outside the standard teaching parameters and catapult students and academics into new ways of developing and consuming content. 

"Emily's video demonstrates that if we give students the chance their scope for innovation is unlimited," she says.


17 January 2017

Jessica Cortis, Media Assistant