Top of the class! Flinders educators win prestigious citations

Maria Parapilly_FlindersWP
Dr Maria Parappilly was recognised for her innovative and inspirational approach to teaching physics.

They’ve improved the health and educational prospects of thousands of people in South Australia – and now three of Flinders University’s top educators have won prestigious national teaching and learning awards.

Dr Maria Parappilly has been recognised for inspiring her students to love physics, while Dr Sarah Mahoney and Jacky Lowe are receiving joint citations for their academic and administrative leadership of Flinders’ Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP).

The trio will be celebrated at a presentation ceremony in Adelaide next Monday (28 September) where they’ll receive their citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Federal Government’s Office for Learning and Training (OLT), part of the Australian Awards for University Teaching.

Dr Mahoney and Ms Lowe’s work at OCEP has led to the development and ongoing success of a unique, immersive, longitudinal program of urban community-based medical education.

Dr Parappilly, who teaches five topics and coordinates four at Flinders, has been winning the hearts and minds of thousands of physics students since her appointment to Flinders University in 2007. She also recently won the early career STEM educator of the year/territory teaching category at the South Australian Science Excellence Awards.

She says her work is underpinned by her belief in the importance of making physics more accessible to first year students through innovative teaching strategies that inspire, engage and improve learning outcomes.

“It is an honour to receive this award from the Office for Learning and Training, which recognises the sustained level of performance since my appointment to Flinders University in 2007,” says Dr Parrapilly.

“Since then, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a diverse range of students to enjoy physics as much as I do by encouraging them to interact with me and their other teachers and peers on interesting tasks that actively engage with the study material.”

Analysis of Dr Parappilly’s SET results for 2010 to 2014 showed that she had maintained an average score of 4.5 out of 5 across all of the topics she teaches.

Dr Mahoney is a general medical practitioner with extensive clinical experience who began university teaching at Flinders University in late 2009, while Ms Lowe is an administrator with a long and successful track record in education, training and project management.

Between them, they have overseen the growth of the Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP) from a small pilot in 2009 to a robust, comprehensive, complex and unique community-based program that also incorporates social accountability.

Dr Mahoney says the program provided opportunities that were previously unavailable in the area, and that this provided significant benefits for the community and medical students.

“OCEP has shown that medical students can undertake an entire year of clinical learning in an outer urban community setting, working with general practitioners and community-based specialists, with benefits not attainable in standard hospital rotations,” she says.

“Today OCEP is valued by its students, the local community and health profession, and is recognised nationally and internationally for its contribution to medical education in urban community settings,” says Ms Lowe.

The Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) administers the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT). You can find more information here: http://www.olt.gov.au/

Flinders University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, says the citations are evidence of the culture of excellence in teaching that exists at Flinders.

“Maria, Sarah and Jacky are inspirational examples of how lives can be changed when teachers are truly passionate about helping students to achieve their full potential,” Professor Stirling says.

“That passion is an integral part of the culture at Flinders University, which has a long and proud history of improving the prospects of people from all walks of life.

“It is my hope that these awards will reinforce that culture and encourage my colleagues to continue the great work they do in empowering each generation of Flinders students.”

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