Dr Amalie Dyda is a Lecturer in the Department of Health Systems and Populations and a researcher in the Centre for Health Informatics (CHI) at MQU. Amalie brings world-class research into the Master of Public Health to teach students about foundations and new advances in health informatics. Amalie is proud of her ability to enhance the postgraduate student experience by teaching in a research-led manner but quickly points to her good fortune in having access to world-leading experts on health informatics through CHI. Head of Department, Janaki Amin, is impressed by Amalie’s ability to integrate current research into her teaching.
I do the cross over really well. My teaching is absolutely based on my research and field experience. Because health informatics is a new field and my research is based on it, it’s easy to link it into my teaching. I talk to other experts in the field, so it’s just a matter of working out which are the core topics I should expose students to.
How did you get into teaching?
Amalie tutored throughout her PhD; humbly proffering that it was her ‘chattiness’ that caused people to assume that she would be good at teaching. Amalie enjoys teaching, engaging with the students and being part of their journey; but like most of us can find the administration overwhelming. Amalie started convening Public Health Informatics 2.5 years ago after a stint as a Tutor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UNSW. Teaching is not something that was originally on Amalie’s career radar, but she has found the role rewarding.
How do you approach teaching?
I really want students to go into the workforce with current knowledge and thinking on Public Health issues. It drives my teaching.”Dr Amalie Dyda
Amalie approaches the teaching of Public Health Informatics from the perspective of a highly skilled practitioner i.e. someone who has worked in the field as an epidemiologist. Epidemiology is the study of the origin and causes of diseases in a community. Amalie uses her expertise to take a large body of knowledge and structure it into an ordered framework, translating the knowledge into accessible language that gradually moves students from simple to complex tasks. Amalie’s access to experts through the Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) was instrumental to the initial planning and ongoing delivery of the Unit.
The research by AIHI is broad thinking and innovative; one result is a research-led Unit for our Public Health students. Nowhere else offers a Unit like MQU’s Public Health Informatics.”Dr Amalie Dyda
The “Five Perspectives on Teaching” (Pratt, 2016) reveal five common approaches to the teaching of adults. Amalie may fit the ‘Apprenticeship’ perspective. Effective teaching from the ‘apprenticeship’ perspective requires learners to perform real-world tasks within their zone of ‘proximal development’ (Vygotsky, 1978) with support and guidance from an expert. Only a highly skilled practitioner, like Amalie, is comfortable approaching teaching and supporting student learning through this perspective. Vygotsky (1978) believed that when a student is in the zone of proximal development (ZPD) for a task i.e. stranded between what is known and unknown, an effective educator provides the appropriate level of assistance to give the student a “boost” to achieve the task. The ZPD has become synonymous in the literature with the term scaffolding.
How do you design assessment?
Students are given two real-world scenarios to choose from and are required to provide a solution using public health informatics. Amalie loves the real-world nature of the assessment but admits freedom of choice is not always well-received by ‘grade-focused’ students. This year the assessment task included a one-day workshop to help students develop problem-solving skills. Students were required to present their solutions to a panel of experts at the conclusion of the workshop.
How do you achieve what you do?
Amalie’s research-led approach to teaching Public Health Informatics enables students to receive both a competitive advantage over other University graduates and knowledge to drive future social reform. When Amalie is asked whether she achieves Priority 1 of MQUs Framing of Futures document, “A culture of transformative learning in a research-enriched environment”, she provides the following self-effacing response:
“I don’t do anything on my own; I ask for help from colleagues, mentors etc. and feedback from students. I tell students that this Unit is new, and we need their feedback.”Dr Amalie Dyda, Department of Health Systems and Populations
You can check what ‘type’ of perspective drives your teaching by completing the Teaching Perspectives Inventory.