My students are faced with a dilemma: a US plane has crashed on an island claimed by China in the South China Sea. The US declares that the plane was carrying naval technicians; China that the US personnel are spies. China refuses to release the Americans. Tensions rise and both countries deploy their militaries. The US asks Australia to assist. What does Australia do? Support its closest military ally, the US? Or its major economic partner, China? This is the kind of problem that can challenge security analysts and practitioners, and which my students try to resolve by applying their Security studies to real world scenarios. Unfortunately, the war game in which we simulated this crisis ended up in a nuclear war, but at least my students gave well considered reasons for it!
I think that teaching excellence involves focusing on more than the outcomes of learning; the process of learning is equally important.
In terms of process, to engage my students I link conceptual material to ‘real world’ events, which illustrates how concepts work in practice and the value of mastering them. I also utilise experiential learning, most significantly through the extended Crisis Simulation I developed for STST2003 ‘Security in the South Pacific’. During this simulation, students put their learning into practice by role playing how Australia would respond to a crisis in a fictional island in the South Pacific. To prepare my students and expose them to a mix of academic and practical content, each week I invite a security practitioner to guest lecture. To further my students’ exposure to the application of Security concepts and to add nuance to their thinking, I also arrange two fieldtrips, one to the AFP International Deployment Group Training Village and the other to the ADF Command and Staff College.
I have also organised a range of co-curricular activities. To allow my students to think about the practical application of their Security studies, I have organised for them to make submissions to government: to DFAT in relation to Australia’s role on the UN Security Council; and to Defence for the 2013 and 2016 White Papers. The high quality of their submission for the 2016 White Paper is an example of where this can lead. The submission was directly quoted in the report of the External Panel of Experts and one of their recommendations was included in the 2016 White Paper, providing them an invaluable confidence boost and an excellent resource for job applications.
“The most notable strength was Joanne’s enthusiasm for the course! … These field trip opportunities were also a great strength of the course, as they allowed us to enhance our understanding of what we were trying to learn and the practical applications in the real world.” Student Comment
“Joanne’s knowledge on the issues covered was brilliant and this was supplemented with extremely experienced guest lectures. The field trips were very relevant and enlightening. The war game was an excellent experience. I probably learnt the most practical skills from this course than any other I have taken.” Student Comment
Dr Joanne Wallis is a Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC). Her passion for learning and teaching is evident in the time she has devoted to developing innovative courses, experiential learning, creative assessment and technology-enhanced participation. She has gone beyond the classroom to develop co-curricular activities intended to put her students’ learning into practice and to help them develop transferrable skills.