HigherEd Heroes podcast series

In the ‘HigherEd Heroes’ podcast series, we interview some of the best teachers at UQ to discuss ‘what works’ in their classrooms in a jargon-free, non-technical manner.

Our objective is to communicate practical advice from the bottom-up to a broad range of teachers about new ideas they may want to integrate into their classrooms and to stimulate open conversations about their everyday practice.

Each episode explores what excites students to learn, what keeps them coming back for lectures, and what makes teaching fun for both teachers and students.

We hope that you engage in these conversations and (like us) find something in them which inspires you to make small changes that may reward you and your students in big ways.

Read more about the project


HigherEd Heroes

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Podcast episodes

Episodes are published on this page once available. Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive updates as new episodes are added.

Season 4  

Episode 9 – 'Apply first, explain later': using a photo treasure hunt to draw out core academic concepts for student learning

In this episode, we talk to Paul Treschman, who teaches in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences here at UQ. Paul makes his students learn according to the motto ‘apply first – explain later’ and he illustrates this through the example of a photo treasure hunt his students do on campus.

Episode 8 – Using film documentary making for student learning and assessment

In this episode, we talk to Associate Professor Peter Walters, who is an urban sociologist and an expert in urban community at The University of Queensland. Peter has won numerous awards for teaching excellence and has integrated film documentary making in his courses for both student learning and assessment.

Episode 7 – Preparing students for the cognitive and emotional uncertainties they will face in their future professions

In this episode, we talk to Dr Roma Forbes, a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at UQ. One of the motivations that drive Roma's teaching is the question of how to enhance the students’ experience. In particular, how to get them better prepared for the uncertainties they will face once they join the workforce.

Episode 6 – What can generative AI bring to our classroom?

There are lots of worries, discussions, and myths surrounding generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT, and the impact it has on our teaching. While acknowledging these, Dan identifies the possibilities generative AI can bring to our classrooms, in particular to the way we as faculty teach and the way our students learn.

Episode 5 – Catering for students who are struggling or are at the risk of failing

In this episode, we have a chat with Dr Poh Wah Hillock, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at UQ. Faced with high failure rates in her first-year mathematics course, Dr Poh took action by creating a support tutorial for her students and implementing forms of community building and peer-to-peer support that helps students connect over common challenges, ultimately leading to their success.

Episode 4 – Using board games, digital escape rooms, and online scenario games in your classroom

In this episode, we talk to UQ’s Shakira Moss (UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute) and Russell Richards (UQ’s Business School) about how they integrate educational board games, digital escape rooms and online scenario games into their courses, and even design these games for learning themselves. 

Episode 3 – The dos and don’ts of PowerPoint presentations

In this episode, we talk to Jo’Anne Langham (UQ Ventures) about how to create great Powerpoint slides and why it matters to design with the mind in mind. If you want to avoid death by PowerPoint and move towards designing your visuals or slides like a pro, this is the episode for you!

Listen to learn how small and practical steps will make a big difference.


Episode 2 – Helping students learn through cohort building and a strong sense of belonging

In this episode, we talk with Associate Professor Zala Volcic (School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University, Australia) about how student learning can be enhanced through care, compassion and a sense of belonging. By talking about what we would call ‘compassionate pedagogy’, Zala shares many practical ideas of how teachers can build cohorts and generate connections that ultimate help their students learn. 

Episode 1 – Learning across cultures

Associate Professor Peter Lewis teamed up with colleagues from 18 Universities across the world to co-teach one common course, in real time and online, for the benefit of cross-cultural learning on topics ranging from COVID to climate change. In this episode, Associate Professor Lewis recounts how his team built this course step by step, how it has evolved, and what anyone can do to replicate elements of this in their own classroom. Associate Professor Lewis the Director of Teaching and Learning for UQ's School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at The University of Queensland. He has won several awards for his innovation around cross-cultural pedagogy and online learning.

Season 3

Episode 13 – Integrating regular practical, self-experiential and collaborative spaces (MediaLabs) into your courses to deepen student learning

In this episode, Dr Seb Kaempf (usually one of our podcast co-hosts) turns interviewee to share with us how he integrates regular, 3-hour long practical, self-experiential spaces (called MediaLabs) into his course to deepen student learning. It’s about enabling students to get their hands dirty, to collaborate, research, discuss and ultimately learn through practice.


Episode 12 – Learning through ‘trench warfare’ and wicked problems: Students as proper consultants with real world business clients

Our guest in this episode is Dr Sarel Gronum (UQ Business School), whose master's degree students get thrown into proper, several week-long consultancy projects with real business clients. Besides the challenge of building this flagship course and how he had to fine tune his own teaching role within it, Sarel talks about the centrality of ambiguity and ‘trench warfare’ for student learning.


Episode 11 – Reassuring students, reducing uncertainty and building student confidence and competence

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to A/Prof Allison Mandrusiak (School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, UQ). 

Coordinating a cardiorespiratory physiotherapy course, Allie has built a model hospital to replicate real clinical practices and even lets her student play cardio karaoke. But central to Allie’s teaching are the ideas of building scaffolding and safety nets into her course that help reassure her students, reduce uncertainty and build their confidence and competence. Tune in and listen to the tips and tricks from Allie whose teaching was recognised with a UQ Award for Teaching Excellence in 2021. 


Episode 10 – The iron law of teaching: bringing a buzz and energy into the lecture room

In this episode, we talk to Professor Chris Reus-Smit (UQ School of Political Science and International Studies) about lecturing as a performance art, and about the essence of being physical, animated, and enthusiastic in order to draw students into the learning content.


Episode 9 – Make yourself uncomfortable: how making the familiar strange helps students learn

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Dr Rebecca Olive (RMIT Australia) about how students in human movement studies learn by taking on an unfamiliar sport for six weeks. It is about experiencing the strangeness of the familiar, about self-reflection and about developing (self)compassion. 


Episode 8 – The zen of presentation design and delivery (with Garr Reynolds)

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Professor Garr Reynolds (Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka) about how to design and deliver powerful presentations, how to avoid death by PowerPoint, and how the best learning comes through doing.


Episode 7 – How can we make those difficult or unpopular topics accessible and fun learning for students?

We have all been there: having to teach a topic that is either difficult to grasp or that we know is unpopular with students. How can make these topics accessible and bring them alive in a fun way to help students learn? Dr Suzanna Fay faced these challenges when she first started teaching statistics and probability theory to social science students. Her solution: let her students learn by building these topics around the actor Denzel Washington.


Episode 6 – Entering the lecture room for the first time

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Kiri Ingram and Dr Andrew Dougall (both at UQ's School of Political Science and International Studies) about starting out as lecturers, the nerves, the challenges, imposter syndrome, and the dos and don'ts.


Episode 5 – Weekly journal writing to help student reflection, build trusting relations and create nourishing environments

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Dr Fabiane Ramos (School of Languages and Cultures, School of Education, UQ) and Dr Laura Roberts (Flinders University) about their use of weekly journal writing as a way to help students reflect on course content (and as it relates to their own lives), to build trusting relationships and to foster a nourishing learning environment.


Episode 4 – '20 Minute Moments': Opening up your class to place key lessons

In this episode, Associate Professor Al Stark (usually one of our podcast co-hosts) turns interviewee to share with us what he calls '20 Minute Moments': it's about stopping the lecture, exposing students to a practical, fun, interactive, but ultimately meaningful activity that allows students to learn key lessons.


Episode 3 – What factors have the biggest impact on student learning? With John Hattie

In this episode, Al and Seb speak to Prof John Hattie (University of Melbourne) about the few key factors that have the biggest impact on student learning. Based on an analysis of more than 300 million students from around the globe (the world’s largest evidence-based study), John Hattie identified the key factors that improve student learning. His findings are equally impressive as they are eye-opening, inviting us to rethink what we – as teachers – do in our uni classrooms.


Episode 2 – 'Escape Box' exercise and learning through team work

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Dr Leigh Sperka (Lecturer UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences) about the ‘escape box’ exercise and learning through team work. 


Episode 1 – 'Me in a Minute' Video

In this 1st episode of Season 3, Al and Seb talk to Dr Karin Sellberg, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, who uses the production of short videos – ‘me in a minute’ – as a form of assessment. How does this exercise work and how does it foster student learning? 


Season 2

Episode 11 – The centrality of role plays in student learning

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Associate Professor Phil Orchard (University of Wollongong), who has designed his courses around simulations and role plays. Why are these so central to Phil's teaching, how do they differ and how can we effectively use different formats in our classroom?


Episode 10 – Talking to tutors about being an effective teacher

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to two experienced and excellent tutors, Dr Federica Caso and Robert Arcidiacono, about all things tutoring: how to be an effective tutor, how to guide, how to respond to challenging situations, and how to bring a tutorial/seminar alive. 


Episode 9 – Techniques to make students read

In the first episode in 2021, Al and Seb talk to Dr Tom Chodor (Monash University) about the ways he has experimented with and ultimately refined different techniques to ensure that students actually do the readings before rocking up for class.


Episode 8 – Different ways of using simulations and role plays

In this episode, Seb and Al discuss with Associate Professor Matt McDonald everything simulations and role play: different ways they can be employed; how to mark them; and how they can enable students to learn if done well. 


Episode 7 – How to grab and hold the attention of students in large first-year lectures

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Associate Professor Sarah Percy (The University of Queensland) and Professor David J Hornsby (Carleton University) about the art of the lecture. In particular, they discuss the tricks and techniques they employ to grab and hold the attention of students in large lectures. 


Episode 6 – Scrapping exams and making students learn through solving practical, real-world problems

In this episode, we are talking to Prof Lydia Kavanagh (UQ School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering) who decided to get rid of exams in her courses and instead offer learning exercises where students collaborate on solving practical, open-ended, real-world problems.


Episode 5 – How to make students learn through researching the impact of real-world problems

In this episode, we talk to Dr Kim de Rijke (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology) on how he makes his students learn through research activities that focus on the social impact of real-world development projects.


Episode 4 – Blake McKimmie on how to redesign your courses around the way students learn

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Prof Blake McKimmie (School of Psychology) on how he revamped his courses around the way students learn. They also talk about the crime drama series Blake produced and which is used week by week to help students navigate through their course. 


Episode 3 – Jacqui Bond on how to engage with the emotional aspect of learning

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Dr Jacqui Bond (School of Pharmacy) about how teaching is not just about cognition but also – and crucially – emotions; how integrating and addressing the emotions of learning enable students to have a more holistic experience.


Episode 2 – James Arvanitakis on learning as a journey and the classroom as both a safe space and a brave space

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Professor James Arvanitakis (Western Sydney University): how he sees his role as a teacher as someone who wants to take his students on a journey and how he designs his classroom as both a safe and space.


Episode 1 – Kicking off the new season

In this episode, Al and Seb introduce the second podcast season and reflect upon what they have been doing in the classroom both during COVID and outside their current existence as Zoom/online teachers.


Season 1

Episode 11 – How students learn through pitching their ideas for a public exhibition on the subject they are studying

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Dr Mary Broughton (School of Music) about how her students collaborated with the curator of one of the museums in Brisbane to pitch their own ideas for a public exhibition on the psychology of music. The conversation centers around how, through this exercise, students are offered a more complex and deeper learning experience.


Episode 10 – How to use scavenger hunts and have students use their own bodies as empirical devices for learning

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Dr Ryan Williams (School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at The University of Queensland) about making students aware of how their studies are being embodied and lived in their every environments and spaces.


Episode 9 – How to use non-traditional forms of participation in the classroom

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Dr Lynda Shevellar (Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences at The University of Queensland) about to get students who don't feel comfortable speaking to use their bodies to participate in the classroom.


Episode 8 – How to take students out of the classroom and expose them to different forms of learning

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Dr Simone Smala, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education at The University of Queensland, about how taking her students out of the classroom and into different institutions and museums helps them understand different forms of learning.


Episode 7 – On the merit and value of the old style lecture

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Associate Professor Andrew Phillips (School of Political Science & International Studies, UQ) about the value and merit of the traditional, old-style lecture for student learning. They talk about what makes a great lecture stand out, the importance of a narrative arch and storytelling.


Episode 6 – How to really involve practitioners in the classroom

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Cameron Parsell – an Associate Professor in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland – about how he not only brings practitioners into his classroom but fully involves them in assignments and making them work with students.


Episode 5 – How to involve students in the re-design of your courses

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Associate Professor Nicholas (Nic) Carah about his experience and practice of involving students in the design and redesign of his courses, and how it has led him to change his own teaching practices. Nic is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication and Arts at The University of Queensland.


Episode 4 – How to use Lego as a teaching tool in your uni classroom

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Elske van de Fliert, the Director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at The University of Queensland, about how her students use Lego as a means to develop ideas and stories, and thereby learn.


Episode 3 – How to place students in the driving seat during your lectures

In this episode, Al and Seb talk to Associate Professor Gerhard Hoffstaedter (UQ School of Social Science) about the ways in which his students collaborate in lectures, oftentimes even taking the lead during his lectures. In particular, Gerhard points to how the techniques he uses (including Pecha Kucha) open up new possibilities for students to learn.


Episode 2 – How to use simulations and practical scenarios in your classroom

In this episode, Seb and Al talk to Dr. Caroline Wilson-Barnao (Lecturer in Public Relations in the School of Communications and Arts at the University of Queensland) about how her students learn through practical simulations and crisis scenarios.


Episode 1 – Yay, we're live! But what's this all about?

In this opening episode, Al and Seb talk about what their new podcast is all about and what you can expect from this series. And they share a few gems you might find useful in your uni classroom.