The Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Awards and Citations acknowledge and celebrate the many ways that teaching and professional staff at UTS are creating the best possible learning experiences and outcomes for our students. We chatted with 2019 Strengthening the UTS Model of Learning Award winners Dr Allison Cummins, Dr Christine Catling, Dr Deborah Fox and Vanessa Scarf to learn about how they prepare, support and inspire students in their practice-oriented approach to teaching.
Please tell us a little about what your award was given for
The UTS Midwifery team received an award for Strengthening the UTS Model of Learning through approaches to learning and teaching that influence, motivate and inspire students to become woman-centred, professionally competent and collaborative practitioners.
We implemented a number of strategies throughout the course with a focus on evaluation of practices that bring about improvements in learning and teaching through assessments, workshops and whole subjects that address the UTS Model of Learning, being practice-oriented, research-inspired and globally relevant.
Commencing midwifery, students can become challenged early in their course due to the confronting and emotional nature of midwifery. The literature states that this may impact the students’ desire to continue, and they may leave their midwifery course within the first six months as they face the emotional demands of midwifery coupled with balancing study and life outside university.
We introduced a workshop, ‘Sensitive Issues in Midwifery’, to address the emotional demands of midwifery early in the course. The workshops offer students an introduction to the sensitive nature of midwifery, building collegiality with peers and self-care strategies.
The Sensitive Issues workshop is embedded into the Bachelor of Midwifery (BMid) first year and has been formally evaluated through a pre- and post-test that demonstrated improvements in learning and teaching and met the graduate attribute of collaboration and professional competence. The evaluation found significant improvements in students feeling equipped to find new personal, professional, emotional and psychological supports.
Later in the first-year, BMid students learn the intricacies of appraising research in the subject Translating Research into Midwifery Practice. To address the challenges students face in regard to understanding research, we developed a suite of videos. The videos simplify and explain different research methodologies, in alignment with their assessments for the subject. The vodcasts have enhanced the class discussions and provided timely support for student’s assessments.
We evaluated the videos via an online survey and found 75-85% students rated the videos as ‘useful’. Comments from students in a free text box noted:
these videos helped me understand research and how best to apply it
Through addressing student challenges in understanding and applying research methodologies we have supported students to become professionally competent and have enhanced the UTS Model of Learning to be research-inspired.
Midwifery students are assessed on their compulsory clinical experience placement that occurs in over 20 partnering hospitals. With the introduction of an Australian Midwifery Standards Assessment Tool (AMSAT), a validated assessment tool for midwifery clinical practice placement, our industry partners requested the development of resources to assist them to complete the AMSAT.
We drafted three clinical scenarios, providing examples of how a 1st, 2nd and 3rd year student may meet the assessment standards. The scenarios were turned into short video clips with the midwifery teaching team and students acting the part of student and assessor. The videos are displayed on the National AMSAT website. This project strengthens the UTS Model of Learning through practice-oriented education with industry engagement.
The best example of assessments that encompasses the midwifery graduate attribute of woman-centred care is midwifery students’ continuity of care experiences. Midwifery continuity of care is defined as care provided to women through pregnancy, being on call for the woman’s birth and providing care during the early parenting period.
Midwifery students are required to complete a minimum of ten continuity of care experiences during their degree. The majority of transitioning students do not have the opportunity to work in midwifery continuity of care models at the time of graduation, rather they are rostered to work on different hospital wards.
We addressed the need to prepare our graduates to work in continuity of care through developing a 3rd year workshop titled “preparing to work in continuity of care models”. The workshop provides a staged approach to the skill consolidation that students need to provide continuity of care, through completion of an e-portfolio containing their midwifery philosophy and a professional development plan.
Graduates from midwifery programs at UTS have had success with transitioning from student to work as new graduates in midwifery continuity of care models, despite limited opportunities in the health industry.
The workshop and promotion of continuity of care experiences demonstrate the graduate attributes of woman-centred care, collaboration, professional competence and strengthened the UTS model of research inspired learning and being practice-oriented. UTS midwifery programs positively prepare graduates to transition directly to midwife continuity of care models of care.
During the third and final year, Bachelor of Midwifery students undertake a subject called International Perspectives, expanding the students’ knowledge and understanding of midwifery in a global context. Students are required to organise and engage in a student-led conference (half-day) exploring aspects related to women’s reproductive health, pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting period, cultural birth practices and infant feeding, within a global context. Conference planning begins in the first week of the Spring session, where students are introduced to the challenges faced by women in low- and low to middle-income countries, and the role that midwives take in these settings. The students then identify a theme for the conference and commence planning the program in small groups or committees allocated to specific tasks. This subject and related assessment tasks meet the UTS Model of Learning professional practice in a global workplace — with a focus on international mobility and international and cultural engagement.
Student feedback relating to this subject has been consistently positive, as shown in the Student Feedback Survey (SFS) feedback:
This subject makes you consciously think about the midwifery challenges from around the world
and from others,
I feel I have a greater knowledge of midwifery on a global scale
I found all the topics covered by my peers at the conference inspiring
Our award demonstrates the collaborative, team-based approach to Strengthening of the UTS model of learning from the midwifery teaching team within the Faculty of Health.
What’s something new you are hoping to try or explore in learning and teaching in 2020/21?
With the rapid transition to online learning, the UTS midwifery team have become proficient in using online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams. As we move forward the midwifery team are embracing a more blended approach to meeting the course objectives of learning practice-oriented clinical skills.
We are exploring and developing interactive online learning modules which complement simulated practice in the specifically designed clinical skills laboratories. These new modules provide dedicated time to simulated practice in the labs rather than students having to cover the theoretical aspects prior to simulation. The students are able to access the modules, including short instructional videos, at a time and place that suits them prior to their timetabled clinical simulation laboratory. They can again access the modules on their mobile devices in the clinical simulation labs to clarify concepts whilst engaging in simulated practice. These modules enhance the instructions provided by the teacher.
Students have provided initial feedback that states the modules are informative and provide flexibility for their learning. As noted here by one student:
[We were] able to do it in our own time and with our own time frame and I feel it fit more with the demands of this degree, it can be difficult to manage time between continuity women, placement, assignments, lectures, part time work and family life.
What’s one trick or tip you wish you’d known when you first started out in university teaching?
Being approachable, available, not having all the answers all the time, but being responsive to student feedback. Also, if you can make the experience for the students as interactive as possible, it enhances their learning and makes teaching more interesting! Embrace technology, hand the fact-finding over to the students who can then build learning resources for the whole group.
What’s your approach to keeping students active and engaged in a large group situation?
Students love breakout rooms when engaging in online learning and small group work when face-to-face. They appreciate and have come to expect that the teacher will join their small group and offer guidance with their peer learning experiences.
Students also appreciate the teacher being available via email and online platforms.
When on Zoom, students also appreciate having to complete a few polls during class to crystallise concepts and get them to think more deeply about topics. Having clear, concise group topics is vital, and making sure they know what is expected of them when feeding back to the group. This also encourages students to contribute to the class discussion, particularly those who would be more inclined to stay quiet.
What’s been your most memorable learning and teaching moment – as a teacher, or as a student?
Most memorable moment for us all as midwifery lecturers is watching the midwifery students cross the stage at Graduation every year and knowing that we had a place in their learning and success in becoming a midwife. We like staying connected with our graduates and watching their career progression and experience an intense feeling of pride when meeting with graduates in the hospital setting.
What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in universities today?
The most challenging aspect of teaching, particularly during the pandemic, is maintaining communication with the students. Trying to connect with the cohort via online teaching waters this down somewhat. It is difficult when students do not turn their video cameras on, and you are often faced with a student number or a phone number only. Using the online breakout rooms and visiting those rooms helps a little to address the challenge of online learning and teaching, however the face-to-face follow up, and regular messaging to students is really important.
Despite these challenges, many students have given us very positive feedback about their online learning experiences, in fact, many prefer it. Attendance rates are higher in the online environment and both SFS results and academic results in Spring were superior to previous sessions in a number of subjects.
Having to work online more has also affected us as a tight-knit team, however we have regular ‘online huddles’ and fortnightly team meetings to keep connected.
Watch the L&T Awards ceremony livestream
You can watch Allison, Christine, Deborah and Vanessa receive their award at the 2019 Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Awards in the video below.
You can also watch fellow award winners at an upcoming Q&A event. Check out the link below for more information and to register.
Main banner image by Andy Roberts