According to many students enrolled in the Bachelor of Clinical Science (B.ClinSci) and colleagues, Mira is a shining example of teaching excellence, completely devoted to her students and the development and success of a unique fast-tracked course for the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
Mira was a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Science before joining the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science in 2014. Her first task in the Faculty was to develop and deliver, in collaboration with surgeons and radiologists within the faculty, the Graduate Diploma of Anatomy. The course is accredited by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and attracts young medical graduates from across Australia.
When Prof Patrick McNeil and Prof Kirsty Forrest proposed a new undergraduate, innovative, fast-tracked course, BClinSc, designed for high achieving students wishing to pursue a career in medicine and health, Mira recognised an opportunity to contribute her expertise as an enthusiastic medical educator. In 2015 Mira was appointed course co-director (shared with Dr Dane King from 2016 until his departure in January 2019) where she worked on the BClinSc curriculum and multiple unit development.
Mira’s expertise in teaching anatomy, histology and her love for embryology (very well known to her students), as well as her medical background, were pivotal in creating system-based units rather than discipline-based units, commonly offered in undergraduate courses. Integration of anatomy, physiology and basic principles in pathology are core disciplines delivered in the system-based units within BClinSc; supported by an introduction to research and professionalism.
The definition of success?
If a course can be deemed successful purely based on enrolments, then BClinSc has been an outstanding success. In the first intake in 2016, there were 37 students; in 2019, BClinSc has 140 students enrolled.
Mira acknowledges the important role of Head of Department, Prof Helen Rizos, in BClinSc’s success; “Helen has been incredibly supportive in encouraging and recruiting a young and enthusiastic teaching team” (Cara Hildreth, Esther Lim, Chris Chiu, Emily Don, Marina Santiago, Albert Lee). According to Mira, the teaching team have been instrumental to the success and excellence of the course.
What are some examples of your legacy?
Mira is a reflective practitioner, constantly evaluating and improving the delivery of units she convenes, despite them being well received by students in unit evaluations.
Mira introduced a simulation lab, a unique horizontal and vertical integration in anatomy teaching through practical classes in the anatomy lab, application of anatomy and physiology concepts in the simulation lab and tutorial classes as a capstone learning experience through group discussions. The anatomy and simulation labs are regarded as an invaluable resource for the consolidation of anatomy and physiology knowledge by students.
Mira also introduced a scientific poster presentation assessment task to enhance students’ understanding of research method, scientific writing, referencing as well as team and individual work. Students voted this activity as the best Faculty assessment task in 2018 (with Dr Esther Lim who took over the teaching of the Unit from Mira).
Due to the shortage of laboratory spaces and demand for practical laboratory knowledge by the students, Mira introduced virtual laboratory practical classes and in-class practical tests, based on a clinical scenario. Mira also introduced online interactive learning activities that she uses for formative assessment, revision as well as a tool for the introduction of new concepts in the unit.
What drives your passion for teaching?
Mira sees herself as an enthusiastic, engaging, inspiring and innovative teacher. She takes her students on a journey where respect for students’ unique individual needs is central to her nurturing approach. Mira provides a safe environment in which students can flourish educationally, professionally and personally.
Students are my inspiration. I am passionate about providing each and every student an opportunity to achieve their very best and fulfill their dreams. I encourage, or better said, I insist on active learning and constantly challenge students intellectually; I encourage students to be life-long learners rather than studying to pass a test.Dr Mira Strkalj, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Macquarie University
How do you maintain your passion for teaching?
“I’m constantly reading educational literature to find ways to lessen the stress on students and look for new teaching strategies to present content to students in an engaging way.” For example, instead of just providing summative exams Mira provides regular formative tests to support student learning and provide immediate feedback. Anatomical Sciences Education is Mira’s go-to inspiration resource.
What is your legacy as co-course Director?
“I’m very proud of the BClinSc integrated course that I have helped to shape – the course allows students to have a taster of many disciplines in a fast-tracked program before they commit to a career path.” Broad brush strokes and foundational knowledge on the human body and easy access to current research from within the Faculty makes this course exciting and applicable to students as it provides students with broad career possibilities.
BClinSc is an excellent foundational course for pursuing a career in medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, research, public health or any other allied health profession.
What’s next for Mira?
I have handed over the BClinSc course coordination role to the capable Dr Cara Hildreth, while remaining strongly supportive of the course. I will continue to convene and deliver system-based units in the course making sure anatomy is delivered as a vibrant, interesting and clinically important discipline.Dr Mira Strkalj, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Macquarie University
Mira will now focus on her role as Anatomy Lead in MD. “Horizontal and spiral integration of anatomy with other disciplines in medicine is extremely important in graduating confident medical practitioners.”
Pratt, D. & Associates, (1998), Five Perspectives on Teaching in Adult and Higher Education, Krieger Publishing Company, Florida, USA.
Take the Teaching Perspectives Inventory here: http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/