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Helping exercise and sport students lift their game in science

Published: 27 February 2019

Dr Aaron Scanlan
Dr Aaron Scanlan is a worthy recipient of a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning as part of the 2018 Australian Awards for University Teaching.

Exercise and sport sciences students often have a strong passion for the discipline but can be daunted by scientific concepts during their studies.

However, CQUniversity senior lecturer Dr Aaron Scanlan has developed a unique approach, carefully stepping students through the scientific process culminating in the completion of research projects with direct relevance to the fitness and sports sector.

For example, students have validated newly-developed mobile applications to measure physiological responses.

They have also assessed the physiological demands of modern sports such as Ultimate Frisbee as a potential means to improve health and fitness in the general population.

Dr Aaron Scanlan is a worthy recipient of a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning as part of the 2018 Australian Awards for University Teaching.

The citation praises his delivery of a ‘scaffolded approach’ emphasising a research-teaching-industry nexus to promote scientific learning in exercise and sport physiology.

The approach he has pioneered enables students to comprehend core scientific concepts, understand the scientific process, undertake scientific inquiry, and develop scientific outputs relevant to industry.

“Difficulties arise in preserving student passion for the discipline while developing key scientific knowledge and skills,” Dr Scanlan says.

“In particular, students can struggle to identify the importance of applying science in industry-relevant scenarios.

“While my framework is centred on linking research and teaching, the application of outcomes to industry is an important component to emphasise.

“Student engagement and learning increases when they can recognise the direct translation to industry practice.”

Dr Scanlan says his students administer field and laboratory tests assessing physiological health, fitness, and performance.

“They embody their future careers, rather than passively absorb scientific instruction in the classroom,” he says.

“This diversity in exposure has enabled students to pursue careers spanning from elite sport to clinical settings.”

Students consolidate their understanding of the research process by participating in discussions with peers and staff to conduct research projects under Dr Scanlan’s direction, deliver oral presentations, and develop research manuscripts.

Understanding the scientific process has enabled students to produce advanced scholarly outputs stemming from knowledge and skills developed in Dr Scanlan’s units.

So far, multiple undergraduate students have won coveted Summer Research Scholarships and completed research-based honours courses, producing 23 journal publications and eight national conference presentations under his tutelage.