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 Dr Michael Thai 

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

I don’t really consider myself “innovative”. I only strive to do the best job I can to foster a sense of community and student engagement, which sometimes leads me to go beyond conventional lecturing approaches to promote learning. I run group “picnic” consults on the Great Court before major exams so that students can interact, ask questions, and learn from one another under my supervision, in a casual, relaxed environment. I infuse my lectures with visually engaging slides, videos, pop culture references, and humour to engross students. I am perhaps most renowned for my practice of educationally repurposing pop songs to explain psychological concepts and experiments. My repertoire includes Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Britney Spears, and is ever-growing.

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

I hope to inspire in students a passion for psychology that my own lecturers instilled in me when I did my undergraduate degree here at UQ. I wish for students to attend lectures every week, not because they feel obligated to, but because they want to. I go above and beyond in my teaching to demonstrate to students that I care about their education, that I am invested in their learning, and that I am dedicated to ensuring that they have the best possible student experience. I want them to feel like they could not get the experience of being in one of my courses anywhere else.

3. What do you enjoy about teaching students?

What don’t I enjoy about teaching students? I have had the fortune of teaching the most wonderful and engaged cohorts of students. With all their thoughtful questions and novel insights, each semester of teaching is a learning experience for myself as much as it is for the students. Their keen and inquisitive energy invigorates my passion for teaching and learning, and motivates me to be a better lecturer. Oh, I also appreciate it when they laugh at my jokes.

4. What are your career highlights so far?

I have been awarded a few university-level commendations for my teaching, but the top career highlight for me would have to be when I performed my first full proper educational parody. I used Taylor Swift's 'Look What You Made Me Do' to explain a classic experiment about obedience in social psychology. The performance was recorded by a student and posted on the school's Facebook page. It went viral among psychology students and educators, internationally. It attracted a quarter of a million views, along with thousands of reactions, shares, and comments like “What a brilliant and innovative way of teaching” and “As it's well aware, I hate learning about Milgram - this is the only way I want to hear about it from now on”. It was even shared by the Australian Psychological Society. I was absolutely chuffed.