Pioneering physics educator receives international award

The life changing work of one of Australia’s top university physics educators has been recognised with an international award for innovation in teaching.

Flinders University physicist Dr Maria Parappilly, whose pioneering methods have been recognised with state and national awards in Australia, has been named as winner of the only 2017 D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning (Physics) open to applicants from all countries.

The D2L awards (Canada) celebrate and recognize up to five post-secondary educators each year for innovative approaches that promote student-centred teaching and learning.

Dr Parappilly, a Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator: Bachelor of Science (Physics) in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, has transformed physics teaching at Flinders by using research-led innovative approaches – many of which have since been adopted far beyond her class rooms.

Her strategies, including Team Based Learning (TBL), Inquiry-Based Lab (IB Lab) – and even “LEGO Physics” – have positively impacted her students over a number of years.

Through her work as founder of Flinders’ STEM: Women Branching Out group, she has specifically targeted young women in STEM through role model workshops and networking opportunities.

Thanks to that work, Flinders’ STEM: Women Branching Out group has grown from 16 students to more than 366 in 14 months, with many women now studying physics who previously would have been lost to the discipline.

Dr Parappilly will travel to Canada to receive her award on Wednesday 21 June in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the STLHE Conference.

As one of the winners, she has also been invited to present at a Conference Session entitled: “Meet the D2L Award Winners”.

Her prize also includes travel expenses to attend the FUSION annual conference held in Las Vegas on 19-20 July.

One of Dr Parappilly’s papers: ‘Ready to Learn Physics: a team-based learning model for first year university’ has been selected by international publishers (IOP Publishers, UK) to highlight the importance of physics education research in Australia and showcase the crucial value Australian science brings to global progress and development.

Her latest paper:  “The Race to Improve Student Understanding of Uncertainty : Using LEGO Race Cars in the Physics Lab’ has just been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Physics.”

Dr Parappilly is currently the chair of the topical group-Physics Education of the Australian Institute of Physics.

More information on the award can be found here:

Other awards received by Dr Parappilly include:

 An Australian Government Citation 2015 for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning at the Australian Awards for University Teaching

Early Career STEM Educator of the year–Tertiary Teaching category at the South Australian Science Excellence Awards 2015

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching 2015

Flinders University Executive Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching 2015

The full list of D2L 2017 award winners is:  

Professor Richard Ascough (Queen’s University, School of Religion)

A/Prof Steve Bednarski (St. Jerome’s University/University of Waterloo, History)

Professor Joe Kim (McMaster University, Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour)

A/Prof Jesse Stewart (Carleton University, Music)

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