To address the 2019 theme "creativity' for UQ Teaching and Learning Week we highlighted some of the innovative teachers who enhance student learning in UQ's Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.

Q&A with Associate Professor Mark Nielsen

Associate Professor Nielsen teaches within UQ's School of Psychology
1. What kind of innovative teaching and learning practices do you incorporate?

I like to involve students in any lecture I give and aim to provide opportunities to make content interactive. UQ has some great eLearning apps that I use to facilitate this. WordStream allows students to pose questions to me electronically during lectures that I see on the lectern screen as a live feed so I can answer them as they are posted. This permits a high level of engagement during lectures and enables students to get involved in the content, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to ask questions. I also pose broad questions to students (e.g., “What makes you who you are?”), then using WordCloud students are able to enter words that they feel best fits. As answers are submitted they appear on the lecture screen as a word cloud, the more popular terms growing in relative size as students continue to contribute ideas. This brings students into the lecture content while providing a light hearted pause when students enter irreverent responses (which they always do – ‘John Cena’ being a popular response to the above question for some reason I don't understand). To make content more engaging I also act out various experiments in class, using volunteer students from the class as stand-in participants. This provides a way in which students can quickly understand various conditions and protocols, and helps break up content delivery.

2. How do you hope to influence the student experience at UQ?

For each lecture students are giving up two hours of their time to spend with me, so I hope they find those hours worthwhile – that they’ve not only learnt something new but have discovered a new way of thinking about things, not just in terms of what I directly teach but in ways of seeing the world in a different light. I hope students remember me as someone who challenged them to think about what they are being taught, whose lectures were entertaining and engaging, and as someone who genuinely cared about their learning.

3. What do you enjoy about teaching students?

I like it most when I feel like I’ve made a difference. Whether its giving students something to appreciate in a topic they previously found uninspiring, changing the way they interpret what they are being taught, or providing a new perspective on the world around them. I enjoy it when students challenge me and engage me in discussing lecture content, during class and outside of it. And I’ve genuinely loved seeing students I’ve taught progress through their degrees and onto pathways they find fulfilling, whether in academia or outside of it.

4. What are your career highlights so far?

As a teacher, any time a student has told me they appreciated a lecture, the way I structured a course or the approach to assessment I used. I’m also proud to have received a Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence and a UQ Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.