Award for Teaching Excellence - 2011
Physical Sciences and Related Studies

Associate Professor Tasker

University of Western Sydney
New South Wales
University of Western Sydney
Multi award-winning educator Roy Tasker has taught first year chemistry to large and diverse groups of students over multiple campuses at UWS since 1985. Through his research and experience, he can demonstrate that a deep understanding of chemistry requires the ability to imagine the invisible molecular world to explain the observable world. Only then do abstract chemical formulas and equations become meaningful communication. Roy helps his students to construct a mental model of the molecular world by using his VisChem learning design; a sequence of learning activities involving interactive multimedia visualisation and peer discussion. This learning design is grounded in an evidence-based cognitive learning model, and exploits the strengths of face-to-face and computer-mediated learning experiences. Adaptive online tutorials reinforce key concepts and skills and provide context-sensitive feedback to each student. Student survey data and analysis of academic performance provide evidence of the popularity and effectiveness of these teaching approaches. Research publications and conference plenary invitations are evidence of peer recognition of the VisChem project. The VisChem resources and approach have been adopted in national and international chemistry curricula, and presented to science educators involved in chemistry curriculum reform overseas, at tertiary and secondary levels.