UQ engineering lecturers named among Australia’s best teachers

15 Mar 2021

“We encourage students to learn by doing,” said mechanical and materials engineering lecturers, Dr Michael Bermingham and Professor Matthew Dargusch, from The University of Queensland.

The pair are teachers and researchers from the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, and were recently celebrated for their supportive and hands-on teaching approach with a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in the Australian Awards for University Teaching.

Teaching engineering design and manufacturing courses, the lecturers have found the best way to encourage excitement for the subjects and get great results from students is to let them get hands-on from day one.

“Students love the hands-on experience of designing and manufacturing engineering products.

 “Our students are often home tinkerers, so working this natural tendency into our teaching is a sure-fire way to bring that passion to the classroom,” Dr Bermingham said.

“We use live demonstrations or showcase pieces in lectures to reinforce learning objectives or difficult-to-grasp concepts.

“Students enjoy seeing us use a butane torch to heat steel rods to 1000 degrees Celsius to transform the crystal structure, then breaking them to show the effect on physical properties.

“When students get out of their seat and interact with these, we often see them experience that amazing ‘a-ha’ moment – this is always a highlight for a teacher,” Dr Bermingham said.

Dr Bermingham and Professor Dargusch say striving to keep the skills taught in class relevant to students’ future careers also helps to keep students engaged and learning.

“Engineering is changing dramatically in response to the digital transformation of industry coupled with the recognition of the importance of a highly skilled engineering workforce essential to drive productivity, and our emerging engineers need to be well prepared to participate in this fast-changing environment,” Professor Dargusch said.

“Almost all students come to university to develop professional skills for their future work in industry, so they definitely appreciate the links between theory and practice.

The lecturers have seen outstanding results with their student-focussed teaching with top-level results doubling over the last five years and student satisfaction levels steady at the highest possible grade of ‘excellent’.

UQ lecturers from science and health fields were also recognised for their high-quality teaching.

Microbiologist Associate Professor Jack Wang took out the prestigious title of University Teacher of the Year and Dr Anna Hatton from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences was also awarded a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Details of all the winners of the Universities Australia Australian Awards for University Teaching are available here.