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HERDSA Fellowship for Curtin College Academic, Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke at HERDSA awards

In somewhat of a coup for Navitas, Gemma Clarke, Academic Coordinator at Curtin College, Perth, was inducted as a HERDSA Fellow in July this year at the annual conference held in Auckland, New Zealand. The Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) is the peak industry body for the advancement of higher and tertiary education in the region.

HERDSA Fellows are recognised for their contribution to learning and teaching in the ​sector.

The Fellowship process is a rigorous exercise conducted over two years and the final 30-page submission is double blind marked. There are only 50 HERDSA fellows across Australasia and to date they have all been from the university sector. This year there were eight other inductees alongside Gemma, the largest group to be inducted to date.

Gemma Clarke is the first HERDSA Fellow from an independent higher education provider.

This is a major personal achievement for Gemma and serves to enhance Navitas’ reputation within the sector for excellent learning and teaching outcomes, scholarship and professional development.

Gemma has provided her own personal insights into the process and tells us about what motivated her to complete the demanding HERDSA fellowship…

“I have worked at Curtin College since coming to Australia in 2009, largely in teaching roles. From the moment I arrived at the  College I was entrusted by Barry Fleming, then Academic Director to find ways to improve our in classroom teaching practices for both improved learning outcomes and also teaching experience. With the support of my teaching team we made lots of improvements and still continue to do so today.

I started my teaching career working in a township high school in Johannesburg, an experience that made me hugely conscious of how life changing an impact good teachers and good teaching can have on a person and their future. Even though I work in the private sector here I know that many of the students in my classrooms and their families are making great sacrifices to get a Curtin degree. So being given the opportunity to improve their learning experience was very significant to me.

In 2016 I attended a TATAL (Talking About Teaching and Learning) workshop at the annual HERDSA conference which was held here in Fremantle. It was the first time that I had the chance to talk to colleagues from across the tertiary education sector about learning and teaching, classroom practice and about what underpinned our philosophy of teaching. We were not talking about publishing or conferences and my point of view was being taken into consideration even though I was from the private sector!

This was the first time I had engaged in a forum of tertiary academics that was completely focused on classroom practice. I had found my people!

That workshop led me to join a HERSA writing group, facilitated by Curtin University, and that is where I learned about HERDSA fellows. In all honesty I wanted to become a fellow for two reasons; firstly to prove to the university sector that there is innovative, student focused teaching happening in the private sector and that we could teach them a few things about excellence in learning & teaching. And, I wanted to do something that recognised excellence in learning and teaching, not research but actual classroom practice.

It was without doubt a very demanding and rigorous process, but I had a wonderful mentor, Abigail Lewis also a HERDSA fellow, to encourage me through the two and a half years it took me to complete it. Being a fellow was not a requirement for my role at the College, it was a very personal goal, but in achieving it I know my practice and how I approach everything I do in my teaching has improved because of this experience and that hopefully means my students are benefitting too.”

Congratulations on your achievement, Gemma!​​


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