28 November 2006

University of Queensland initiatives to improve rural medical care and to enhance research students’ communication and team skills have won Australia’s highest teaching honours.

The winners of the 2006 Carrick Australian Awards for University Teaching were announced in a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra this evening (November 28).

UQ has won more national university teaching awards than any other university since the awards began in 1997.

UQ Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay, AC, congratulated all members of the winning teams.

“The newest winners are continuing a UQ tradition of delivering an outstanding learning experience to undergraduate and postgraduate students,” Professor Hay said.

“During the past 12 months UQ teachers have been awarded more than $10 million from the national Learning and Teaching Performance fund, plus 10 Carrick Citations (the maximum possible for one university), five Carrick Grants, and three prestigious new Carrick Fellowships (including one Senior Fellowship).

“Due to the combined performances of UQ teachers and researchers, UQ is a leading all-rounder among Australian universities. UQ is pre-eminent in matching sustained success in national teaching awards with excellent results from national research funding rounds.”

This year’s national winners, with each project team receiving $25,000, are:

An Integrated Package of Innovative Rural Medical Education: Enhancing Student Outcomes and Increasing the Rural Medical Workforce, which is the brainchild of Dr Diann Eley, Dr Louise Young, Associate Professor Peter Baker and Professor David Wilkinson from the School of Medicine.

Dr Eley said the integrated package was built on a strong foundation of an eight-week rural rotation for all third-year medical students.

“Additionally, we have developed a year-long program for third and fourth year students aimed at producing medical graduates who perform well in assessment and regard their rural undergraduate training as enjoyable and high quality,” she said.

Educational innovations introduced through the package include inter-professional study programs, IT and extended rural placement opportunities.

The package applies contemporary information and IT through two innovations – the Clinical Discussion Board (CDB) and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

The web-based CDB allows students to discuss experiences and clinical issues with each other at a variety of rural and remote locations, while PDAs provide access to reference materials.

Dr Eley said a trial in which three third-year students were assigned to doctors in small Central Queensland towns had been a success, with all now completing internships in rural locations.

Research Student [Virtual] Portfolio (RSVP): a tool for student and advisor development, which is the result of a collaboration between Dr Catherine Manathunga (project leader, TEDI), Dr Paul Lant (School of Engineering) and Dr George Mellick (School of Medicine).

Dr Manathunga said the aim of RSVP was to enhance the interdisciplinary teamwork and communication skills of research students.

She said RSVP provided an effective method of evaluating postgraduate research student learning and development outside the thesis examination/oral defence process by introducing a process of graduate attribute development.

“RSVP consists of a set of attributes, together with a reflective review tool with key performance indicators for each graduate attribute, which provide students and advisors with tangible and practical means of addressing each attribute,” Dr Manathunga said.

“Throughout their candidature, students build a portfolio of evidence of achievement of key indicators. A resource package for students and advisors, together with a training program for supervisors complete the package.”

Dr Manathunga said the RSVP approach had been well received nationally and internationally, with several Australian universities interested in adopting the tool.

“The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom has also piloted RSVP and contributed funding for the development of RSVP software,” she said.

Media enquiries: Brad Turner from UQ Communications on 07 33652659 or Fiona Kennedy on 0413380012.