RSAA academic named among Australia’s best teachers

2 December 2016

Two of the University's leading educators have been recognised as among Australia's best teachers.

Professor Paul Francis from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Professor Michael Platow from the Research School of Psychology have received Awards for Teaching Excellence in the 2016 Australian Awards for University Teaching.

The Awards for Teaching Excellence are presented to exceptional teachers who have significantly contributed to the quality of learning and teaching in higher education. Professor Francis has pioneered a series of educational innovations over the past 20 years, which have dramatically increased the ability of students to apply their scientific knowledge to real-world problems.

Most recently, Professor Francis has developed a series of successful Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which have attracted tens of thousands of students around the world. Despite his success, he takes a simple approach to his teaching.

"There's no one thing that makes a good teacher," he said.

"I think part of it is caring deeply about your students and how they are learning. Partly it is about imagination and how to do things in different and exciting ways. But a lot of it is humility - not expecting that students will react the way you want them to.

"You have really got to try things out and see how they work, and if it doesn't work, abandon it and try something else."

Professor Francis said he embraced new technology and believed universities needed to take advantage of the changes.

"There is an avalanche of new technologies coming in teaching, I'm not sure that most universities are ready for it," he said.

"I'm hoping that the prestige associated with this award will help me be able to improve universities to look at all these new technologies and see that it is actually a good thing, not a threat, and actually embrace them."

As a lecturer in social psychology, Professor Platow opens his students' eyes to the concept of social identity, and views students as colleagues, co-producers of knowledge and the next generation of psychologists.

"I like seeing students engage with the ideas and experience a change in their world-view, kind of an 'a-ha' moment," Professor Platow said.

"I think it's time to bring students back into the classroom, not have them isolated and at home. Instead, make sure that they are here on campus where they can engage and share ideas face-to-face."