Meet UWS’s 2014 OLT citation recipients

Story image
Story image

Two UWS academics were recently recognised when they received prestigious Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) citations: Ragbir Bhathal, a lecturer in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics; and Jorge Krijnik, senior lecturer in the School of Education.

Ragbir teaches engineering physics and was recognised for curriculum and resources development. With a nod to flexible learning, Ragbir has placed his tutorials online through a program that allows the students to do their assignments from home and receive feedback at any time of the day. Students can attend a tutorial if they need assistance. 

Another of Ragbir's initiatives, which he dubs the "just in time" mathematics approach, brought about a marked improvement in grades and retention rates. "I revise the mathematics the students need before I teach them the physics," he explains.

"I also show them how the theory and principles I am teaching are applied in a real-life engineering project," says Ragbir. "This gives them a one-to-one appreciation between theory and practice."

Ragbir says one of the things he enjoys most about his role is when first-year students' faces light up when they have understood a difficult solution to a problem or a mathematical derivation of a theory in physics. In fact, he says one of the most rewarding experiences he's had while working at UWS, was a light bulb moment from his students. "After I had shown the class the derivation of a difficult theory in physics, the whole class got up and gave me a round of applause and whistles," he says. "They had seen the light. It was a great moment."

Jorge teaches Health and Physical Education in the Master of Teaching (Primary) and was recognised for respecting and supporting students' development as individuals, as well as challenging pre-service teachers' attitudes towards health and physical education and supporting their development as holistic critical thinkers and agents of change. 

Jorge says research has shown that students may not feel prepared or are scared to go outside and teach Health and Physical Education to primary students and that they have several inflexible, preconceived ideas about what teaching Health and Physical Education means – from ideas with what girls and boys should or shouldn't do with their bodies through to ideas on tough sports training.

"We find out together that kicking a ball is much more than a technique – it involves fun, critical thinking, learning, socialising and individual empowerment. In my courses, students face a transformative academic experience in Health and Physical Education. By establishing a respectful and supportive dialogue with students, we challenge common-sense assumptions on body and sport education. This enables a creative transformation on the teaching of this field so the students leave their courses with not only deeper academic understanding but with a drive to challenge the status quo of body/physical education in schools of Western Sydney."

Jorge says one the things he enjoys most about his role is learning about different cultures and he also shares one of the most rewarding experiences he has had while teaching at UWS: "It was a warm afternoon when, after tutorial had finished, students simply refused to leave and we stayed the whole afternoon, having deep educational conversations under a shaded area next to the Bankstown oval."

As well as the OLT citations, Professor Craig Gonsalvez from the School of Sciences and Psychology received a large, multi-institutional OLT Innovation and Development Grant; and Emeritus Professor Geoff Scott, Professor Roy Tasker and Professor Pauline Ross each received an OLT Fellowship.