A student-focused approach sees Dr Saluja recognised year-on-year

28 July 2021

CQUniversity academic' Dr Sonia Saluja prides herself on providing her students with authentic learning experiences.

So much so that she was recently received a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Learning and Teaching (Tier 2).

This accolade recognises the development of innovative discipline-specific assessment tools that aim to build conceptual understanding in a service-taught neuroscience unit.

This is Dr Saluja's sixth learning and teaching award since she commenced with CQUniversity in 2013. "It's always rewarding' and at the same time' encouraging to receive recognition for your work'" she says.

"It's wonderful to work in an environment where everyone is so dedicated to the work they do. And professionally' I find it extremely rewarding to be involved in the education of future health and medical practitioners."

Dr Saluja's student-focused approach contributed to CQUniversity's five-star rating for teaching in the latest release of the QS Stars University Ratings' a rating system from the highly reputable Quacquarelli Symonds.

Dr Saluja has designed many innovative discipline-specific assessment tools' as part of her CQUniversity neuroscience unit. "Students often consider neuroscience as one of the 'difficult' medical sciences'" she says.

"It requires students to memorise vast amounts of information and conceptualise application of this content to complex neurological disorders.

"For this reason' historically' student feedback indicated widespread dissatisfaction with assessment tasks and the relevance of the subject to their respective disciplines.

"Therefore' to build conceptual understanding in neuroscience for students who had no prior clinical experience' I designed clinical case scenarios as an assessment strategy where student learning was scaffolded from foundation to application within the assessment.

"To build connections in conceptual understanding' I designed questions which prompted students to begin an imaginative journey as a 'clinical detective' - identifying clues and extracting facts as evidence along the way.

Dr Saluja says these innovations have had a profound positive impact on the student experience. "Students responded very positively to the assessment tools'" she says.

"Use of these tools prompted students to be more invested in exploring the world of Neuroscience finding it 'interesting and engaging' and 'something I would do in a future career'.

"Students expressed high levels of satisfaction with the assessments' identifying that their learning was now relevant to their discipline and prepared them for their future clinical environment.

"This goes to show that innovation really does help us see challenges as opportunities to do something new and create solutions along the way.

"The world of learning and teaching is very dynamic; teaching practices and delivery have changed immensely over the years."

Dr Saluja believes that to make valuable improvements to a course offering' an academic should focus primarily on the student experience.

"Think about what will engage the students with their resources' their learning outcomes to make them more work-ready'" she says.

"For example' how can students apply what they learn to authentic problems? Our students are the future workforce."