Top national university teaching award for psychology lecturer

5 MARCH 2021

Top national university teaching award for psychology lecturer

A Charles Sturt University lecturer in psychology has received a national award that recognises her as one of Australia’s exceptional university teachers.

  • A Charles Sturt University academic has been recognised for developing interactive online activities for a biopsychology subject
  • Psychology lecturer Dr Nicole Sugden received a Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning as part of the Australian Awards for University Teaching program
  • Student feedback and evaluation is central to novel digital learning and teaching activities and resources to enhance students’ experience and motivation

A Charles Sturt University lecturer in psychology has received a national award that recognises her as one of Australia’s exceptional university teachers.

Lecturer Dr Nicole Sugden (pictured) in the Charles Sturt School of Psychology has been awarded a Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning as part of the Australian Awards for University Teaching program.

Dr Sugden received her PhD in late 2015 and the recent award recognises her as one of Australia’s exceptional university teachers.

Executive Dean of the Charles Sturt Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences Professor Tracey Green said, “Nicole is an inspirational staff member who works so hard to enhance the experience of her students. We are all so proud of Nicole, and this achievement is so well deserved. It reflects her wonderful work as an individual, as well as her colleagues in the School of Psychology.”

The citation award centres on interactive online activities Dr Sugden developed for a biopsychology subject, to make anatomy content more user-friendly and engaging for students.

“These activities included virtual brain dissections, online lie detector demonstrations and some choose-your-own adventure scenario games where students had to answer questions while engaged in certain scenarios,” Dr Sugden explained.

“For example, to learn about sensation and perception, students go on a virtual holiday to either a topical beach resort, snow adventure, or cultural immersion experience where there are various sound effects (e.g. the sound of waves) and videos.

“The students even get to pretend to share photos of their virtual holiday on Instagram and they answer questions about things that they hear and see in the scenario and the biology underlying those sensations.”

There is also a haunted house activity to learn about emotional responses and a golf lesson in which the students learn about brain pathways involved in movement.

“The idea is that students are imagining themselves in these situations and potentially even experiencing some of the sensations they are learning about, then they are able to apply biological/anatomy theory to real-life experiences,” Dr Sugden said.

Research evaluating the interactive online activities for the psychology subjects showed the students found the activities very engaging and fun, and helped them apply theory to real-life scenarios.

These initiatives were presented at faculty learning and teaching symposiums, and at a conference, and a paper about the evaluation of the activities is due to be published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

Dr Sugden emphasises that all this was a team effort, for which she is grateful.

“I had a lot of assistance from educational designers who found technology to make my ideas for activities a reality,” she said.

The evaluation research involved a team consisting of Robyn Brunton (designed activities); Jasmine MacDonald (researcher); Michelle Yeo (educational designer); and Ben Hicks (student analytics research). The Head of School, the Sub-Dean, and others, provided feedback which improved the submission for the citation.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Nicole Sugden contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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