Recognising and celebrating our award-winning teachers – and the methods and approaches behind their award-winning practice.

Josh Fitzgerald teaches in the Department of Chiropractic in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences. His students – past and present – describe him as infectious – in a good way! In his own words, he ‘leverages the educational power of very bad jokes’ and combines it with an abundance of enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and care, to cultivate safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments for his students.

In 2022, he won the Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Sessional Staff Award.

Josh Fitzgerald always teaches with a smile on his face and a joke on hand, making coming to tutorials enjoyable, and encourages students to engage with the class content. Besides making the content fun to learn, Josh provides relevant connections between the content and professional/every-day life which makes the content more easily consumable and allows students to properly appreciate the application of the information we are learning. It is a joy and a privilege to attend his classes.

Macquarie student

Josh’s person-centred approach to teaching mirrors his vision for his students: for them to become safe and effective person-centred clinicians. In Josh’s own words, he has used his position of teaching widely across the undergraduate and postgraduate chiropractic degrees, to build bridges for students and highlight the connections between units and how they are aligned. His impact and influence extends beyond students’ time at university with many testimonials from alumni detailing how he has made a long-term impact on the way they continue to learn and develop as practitioners. Below, Josh shares some of his teaching philosophy and practice.

Josh manages to create a safe environment for mistakes which is essential for learning. He embraces participation and group learning which keeps me engaged. He doesn’t just dictate material but guides the class through it, which gives you the opportunity to see how the class thinks, and it also brings up points that you might not have thought of by yourself.

Macquarie student feedback

Your application clearly demonstrates your humanist approach to education. What specific approaches do you use to create and maintain such a person-centred learning environment?   

Everyone deserves to feel safe. That’s my starting point.

Macquarie University has offered me multiple opportunities to broaden my horizons through courses covering diversity and inclusion, as well as learning and teaching development (big shout out here to the MQ Walanga Muru community, the MQ Ally Network, and to the organisers and participants in the 2023 FMHHS L&T Symposium). This exposure has helped me to appreciate that everyone is unique in their values, culture, ways of thinking, lived experiences, and approach to learning.

In addition to taking care to acknowledge and respect these personal differences, I aim to celebrate them! This world would be boring if we were all the same. Some ways I strive to achieve this are below:

  • My email signature includes my preferred pronouns, my MQ Ally Network flag, and an acknowledgement of country. This has prompted many wonderful interactions with both students and staff! 🙂
  • I include an Acknowledgement of Country and discussion around its importance in all my lectures, tutorials, and unit welcome videos.
  • I try (not always successfully) to be conscious of my tone, pace and word choices when teaching to appeal to a wide audience.
  • I regularly admit to not being perfect (see above point) and own up to my mistakes. I believe this encourages students to be open to make mistakes themselves and grow from the experience.
  • I invite students to share their lived experiences to navigate and contextualise learning material. This is with reference to themselves, their friends and families, and their future careers.
  • All jokes are welcome and encouraged, provided that they are not at the expense of someone else’s joy.

Overall, I left his class happy. It was a fun, judgement-free learning zone. I feel like most students including myself are always anxious to speak up in case we are wrong but I noticed all students that attended the tutorial were always speaking up happy to learn. Very involved and fun class.

Macquarie student

You employ case-based learning to very good effect in your anatomy and pathophysiology classes. What would be your advice for other educators thinking about using similar approaches? 

I’ll keep this one short and borrow from circa 2015 Shia Lebeouf – “Just Do It!!!”

I employ case-based learning to spark inspiration and motivation, connecting theoretical anatomy and pathophysiology to real people via patient notes and video interactions.

Early in my teaching career, I thought that case-based learning was only viable for students who understood all of the puzzle pieces and were near the end of their program.

I was so wrong.

Over a decade later, I am regularly blown away by the level of engagement displayed and depth of questions asked by students when cases are discussed. This holds true across all years of the Bachelor of Chiropractic Science and Master of Chiropractic programs.

I am extremely grateful that Josh tutored me for the continuing impact he has had on my career. I distinctly remember his enthusiasm and ability to approach teaching from the students’ perspective when explaining difficult concepts. He is patient and supportive, engaging, encouraging and fun… and he played a significant role in my transition into my current position as a surgical robotics clinical specialist.

Chiropractor, MQ Graduate 2015

My practical advice for those wanting to use cases in their teaching:

  1. Scaffold case-based learning for where the student is estimated to be on their learning journey. For example, I don’t expect my bachelor-level students to be able to discuss patient scheduling and evidence-informed treatment options, but I do want to get them excited about history-taking techniques and all the future learning that is coming their way!
  2. Mix up the teaching mediums with typed-up case notes, photographs of written case files, audio and video recordings, and diagnostic images/results.

Josh is a passionate, interactive, and caring educator. He has been my tutor over 3 years now. He makes sure everyone in the class participates and teaches complicated concepts in a simple and easy way, that ensures you will not forget it. Josh is an inspiration for who I want to be as a future clinician and educator. I am so lucky that I got such a high-quality educator in my time at Macquarie University and feel prepared going into my last semester under his guidance.

Macquarie student

Interested in applying for a Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Award in 2023?

Visit our Awards in Teaching webpage for application dates and details.

Acknowledgments: Banner image by Joyce McCown on Unsplash. Post compiled and edited by Karina Luzia

Posted by Teche Editor

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