Spotlight on excellence in teaching at MERE

Dr Haleh Rasekh’s mission is powered by duel ambitions to improve how education is delivered at UNSW Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering, and enhance the experience of international students studying at the School.

Having undertaking her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering in her home country of Iran, Dr Haleh Rasekh came to Australia in 2011 to do her Master of Research in Civil Engineering, and subsequently her PhD in Mining Engineering. Dr Haleh Rasekh at UNSW Open Day

When she heard in 2017 that UNSW was looking to recruit a number of education-focused academics, and there was a position available at the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering (MERE), she jumped at the chance to apply.

“I have a deep interest in mining engineering, but my passion is education and delivering it in the best possible way to improve the learning experience and outcomes for students,” she says.

“As a former international student, I am also passionate about finding ways to improve the experience of this cohort who face additional challenges on top of their studies. It is hard to be away from family and using English as second language, for example, and it is my aim to better understand student needs so we can improve our teaching methodology and the skills we have in our School.”

Currently, Rasekh is the course coordinator for five courses. These include: Resource Estimation for third-year students, Mine Geotechnical Engineering for fourth-year students, Mine Management for fourth-year students, and also a Research thesis B for final-year students. She will also be teaching a geomechanics subject to postgraduate petroleum students and helping other academic staff with undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Rasekh hopes the immediate impact of her work in the School will be to increase student satisfaction in the courses she teaches in a cycle of continuous improvement. “I’ve initiated small focus group meetings with students in my classes to ask for their feedback, so I can work to improve the quality of my own teaching,” she says.

“At the same time, I have observed that some of the teaching tools we have in our School are not fit-for purpose. For example, as a small school with small classes, mostly less than 25 students, I have found that some of the assessment tools we use, such as peer assessment, are not appropriate, so I’m looking to replace them with something else.”

I have a deep interest in mining engineering, but my passion is education and delivering it in the best possible way to improve the learning experience and outcomes for students.

Dr Haleh Rasekh, Associate Lecturer, UNSW Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering

Her education focus is the key thing that distinguishes Rasekh from many of the other academics in the School, who are mostly involved in mining or petroleum engineering research, but she hopes her work will inspire and assist other lecturers to improve their teaching.

“Although mainly focused on teaching, I am involved in several research projects that investigate engineering education improvements and I would love to bring the importance of teaching excellence more into my colleagues awareness. I have sensed a shift in interest towards improving the quality of teaching in our School and recently submitted a paper on peer assessment in collaboration with two MERE academic staff and an academic from UNSW’s School of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering,” she says.

“I am also involved in research projects related to virtual reality development in sustainable mining practice, ground support, slope stability and concrete materials.”

As an early career academic with big ambitions, Rasekh says she would like to continue in academia all the way to Professor and ultimately become the Director of Teaching in the School, but says in the short-term she is working to improve her own teaching by undertaking her Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching.

“At this stage my main ambition is that my students are happy, they learn a lot and the education we provide at the School contributes greatly to their success in their future careers.”

 

 Written by: Penny Jones

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