November 01, 2010


Every year, the University of Queensland awards 5 academics with the UQ Excellence in Teaching Award. It's a way to acknowledge innovative, forward-thinking ideas, as well as the ability to pull the ideas off in a classroom context.

Photo from UQ News (the 5 winners are shown with additional commendation awardees)
This year, our very own Robbie Wilson won one
of these awards! (That's him on the left ... )

Robbie was recognised for his novel approach to teaching ecology to more than 600 first-year students - wait till you hear what they get to do:

  • Students learn about ecological processes (including symbiosis, competition, and succession) while on a day-long field trip at a local national park. They work in conjunction with tutors to complete a number of tasks that are both fun and educational - such as a photographic scavenger hunt, where teams must collect photos of ecology in action. 
  • Teams of students write, direct and film documentary 'essays' about key environmental issues. This encourages students to think more broadly about how to introduce the issue and its possible solutions - they're not just writing something for a tutor to read, but for a general audience. Most groups obtain interviews from key figures in the area of their video - including government ministers, industry leaders, and academics. What a truly unique experience!
  • As part of the lab component of the course, students collect data about dung beetle diversity that is used in a government-funded research project - real data, not just dummy numbers. 
If you'd like to have a look at the UQ News article, along with a short video about Robbie's teaching - click here.

Biodiversity and the Environment is easily the most popular first-year course in the School of Biological Sciences, and teaches hundreds of students a year to think more about our environment and the organisms in it. Which is a very good thing.

Last night, Robbie was specifically recognised for his contribution to undergraduate teaching - but we all know he couldn't have implemented these ideas without the help of a number of hard-working academics and support staff and tutors.

So congratulations to Robbie and to the rest of the Biodiversity and Our Environment team for putting together a course that teaches students about the real world - while getting them involved in it.

Written by Dr Amanda Niehaus

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