16 July 2010
Academics recognised for teaching excellence
Dr Kate Westberg.
Dr Jeff Shimeta.
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Two RMIT University academics have been awarded Australian Learning and Teaching Council citations for outstanding contributions to student learning.
Associate Professor Kate Westberg, from the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, was acknowledged for "sustained innovation and institutional leadership in developing industry-relevant curricula, resources and assessment to enhance student learning and engagement with large undergraduate marketing cohorts".
The citation for Dr Jeff Shimeta, from the School of Applied Sciences, reads: 'For innovative teaching of critical-thinking skills at the undergraduate level in the context of understanding science as an investigative process."
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and Vice-President, Professor Julianne Reid, congratulated the academics on their achievement.
"These citations are a great credit to Associate Professor Westberg and Dr Shimeta and their dedication to improving the classroom experience.
"They reflect RMIT's commitment to exploring innovative and exciting ways of bringing energy and passion into the learning and teaching process."
Dr Westberg, who lectures in Marketing, said she taught large classes in Melbourne and Singapore and faced the challenge of providing personal attention and actively engaging students in the learning process.
"My teaching strategies focus on stimulating students to actively discuss, debate, challenge and reflect on their learning - and to enjoy the experience," she said.
For example, she has teaches a work integrated learning-designated subject with a non-standard format of a one-hour lecture with two hour-long workshops (30 students in each).
"I have championed this format to shift the focus from the lecturer's contribution to the students'.
"With student-led discussion driving student learning in relation to the application of key concepts, I find that I often learn something as well.
"Students' preparation for these discussions includes secondary research and site visits to retail outlets to observe aspects of a company's marketing strategy, such as store atmospherics, pricing, shelf space, competitors and consumer behaviour."
Dr Shimeta, who lectures in Marine Biology and teaches RMIT's Lizard Island snorkeling course on the Great Barrier Reef, aims to guide students through critical analysis of scientific research and findings, developing skills in logical reasoning and analysis, scientific writing, and discussion.
"These skills help students to challenge assertions, evaluate evidence and arguments, and reach independent conclusions about scientific information from the level of professional publications to media reports," he said.
As an example, Dr Shimeta described how, in their first tutorial, students are presented with a graph of data from a published paper with no caption or explanation.
"Students are asked to dissect every component of the graph to infer as much as possible about what these data show, and to identify what they cannot determine from it.
"The exercise teaches them how to read the components of a graph and draw conclusions from it, and more importantly, how to think critically about what it does and does not mean.
"They reverse the way they approach scientific literature, from passively absorbing conclusions to challenging the paper to prove its findings and interpretations."
As one third-year student commented on Dr Shimeta's methods: "I feel this was an extremely valuable lesson for us all. This was the first time I was confronted with truly understanding scientific literature. So I would like to thank you for guiding us so thoroughly and methodically."