H. Mehta, A. Rouf

Australian Catholic University (AUSTRALIA)
Inter-professional education is the current trend in health related degree programs in many countries. Academics are presented with the challenges of teaching to large cohorts of students coming from various educational backgrounds with diverse learning needs and differing in the level of preparation for tertiary studies.

Human Biological Science 1 (BIOL 121) is a new unit taught to students enrolled in the allied health sciences (Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, and Exercise Science) at the Australian Catholic University. The unit was offered for the first time in the year 2012. Student attendance at lectures was variable and poor at times. Students were surveyed on their learning styles and preferences, and their learning behaviour was observed.

When the unit was offered again to the 2013 cohort, students were influenced to develop effective study habits by several student-centred interventions such as improved lecture pedagogy, use of multi-modal instruction, more online content for self-directed learning, academic-guided peer support, and frequent formative assessments during the semester. A summative assessment task was also included.

In just the first repeat offering of the BIOL121 unit, there was some indication of a positive outcome. Compared to the 2012 cohort, the 2013 cohort showed a similar academic achievement profile except for the fact that there was a 4.8% increase in students having a pass (PA) grade and 1.7% increase in the students having a high distinction (HD). Other positive outcomes for the 2013 cohort were increased signs of student interest in learning (such as asking more questions, more interaction in class), decreased signs of disengagement behaviour (such as lateness or absence from learning sessions), and better student responses in evaluations (evaluation of unit and of teaching).

The preliminary findings are indicative of the positive influence that learner-centred pedagogical approaches have on student engagement, satisfaction and academic achievement in the health science unit.