DDr Rachael Hains-Wesson is an Associate Professor of Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) and the Director for the WIL Hub at the University of Sydney Business School. She holds two PhDs and a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne (which ranked the top Master's in Creative Writing courses in the world at the time). Her first PhD was from University of Western Australia in English (2012) with her second from Deakin University in Education. She was awarded the prestigious Convocation award (UWA) as a visiting scholar to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA to undertake research in Theatre for Young People.
Rachael has extensive practical experience as an Entrepreneur, Creative Industries expert and is a renowned leader in higher education pedagogy and research. She has extensive knowledge and experience managing and leading change in international and Australian not-for-profit organizations, the military, start-up enterprises and small to medium size organizations (not-for profit and for profit).
Rachael has received, and has been regularly nominated for top teaching awards, including Vice Chancellor awards for Outstanding Teaching from students at the University of Western Australia. She was awarded a Queen Elizabeth 11 Silver Jubilee Trust for Young Australians and a Myer Foundation award for her acclaimed works in Theatre for Young People.
Rachael is well-known for her work in the Creative Industries, Work-Integrated Learning and for leading large-scale curriculum transformation projects to improve multi-purpose systems and learning outcomes for enhancing students' learning experience. She has published widely via different mediums, including social media and journal articles, book chapters as well as plays and books. Over 100+ publications in a number of reputable outlets, nationally and internationally.
Rachael was a member of the Royal Australian Navy from 1996-2000, and during her time at HMAS Cerberus, Melbourne, HMAS Penguin, Sydney, HMAS Garden Island, Perth and HMAS Adelaide (frigate ship), Western Australia, she provided advanced first aid, pre-hospital emergency care, medical evacuation services and nursing care for the sick and wounded in essential emergency-focused healthcare roles. This encompassed advanced first aid, pre-hospital emergency care, advanced life support, evacuation of casualties, in-patient healthcare, and skilled nursing care for the sick and wounded. She also worked as a learning and teaching support staff member, teaching first aid to recruits.
Rachael is currently serving on a several school, faculty, university, and not-for-profit boards. More recently, Rachael was a key co-leader and designer for the University of Sydney Business School JobSmartEdge program, which received the 2020 QS Reimagine Education award, winning the overall Global Education section for its comprehensive program, providing international postgraduates with key employability skills and work experience. The award is led by the Wharton SEI Centre for Advanced Studies in Management at University of Pennsylvania and the World University Rankings.
Rachael's other activities include:
Personally, as an earlier learner I often struggled to succeed compared to my peers. I came from an economic and socially disadvantaged background. I also have a learning disability, which did not receive a diagnosis throughout most of my earlier learning pathway. However, when I experienced first-hand the dedication and specific attention from a teacher towards my individual learning needs, a tremendous change occurred within me. I observed that this teacher noticed my struggles and learning preferences, assisting me to feel a part of a creative and safe learning environment that felt special. This in turn, made me feel confident to ask questions without fear or rebuke. This teacher was also able to show me that I actually learnt best when the topic, content, assessments, learning experiences and delivery are about real-world events that have social and personal connections that I believe important. Later, this connection became part of my professional learning journey, because I also established a successful social enterprise, which led me to another teaching value that I actively pursue today. The value of integrating industry involvement into the learning experience for solving real-world, social problems.
Today, the inter-meshing of my earlier learning experience with my professional adult experience has shaped my views on what I perceive as “good” teaching today. My journey has allowed me to reflect on the kinds of educational theories of practice I most connect with and why. Consequently, Kolb’s (1989) experiential learning design has always informed my thinking about the importance of providing time, via groups and individual discussions, to unpack reflection and why it is important to improve practice. This insight has led me to delve further into the scholarship of learning and teaching that is evidence-based.
in turn, I have discovered how my practice aligns with social constructionist theory, for instance. At the heart of constructiveness is a concern for the lived experience, or the world as it is felt and understood by social actors.
In terms of my role today, I preference working in teams, group-based approaches and learning from others, which has also influenced my use of group-based informal evaluations during my teaching sessions. For example, I implement informal in-class surveys to receive feedback from students to improve practice. The informal evaluation process has provided me with the opportunity to discuss what has worked and what requires improvement. I do this repeatedly in the classroom and with my team via the use of open-ended questions that allow students and staff to answer anonymously. The answers to difficult questions assists me to redesign and/or implement new learning activities for future lessons as well as to progress the Work-Integrated Learning strategy for the University of Sydney Business School.
I often implement mixed methods as my preferred methodology when undertaking research evaluation projects, which covers both student learning and teacher support.
Continually analyzing the messiness of teaching is important to me. It allows me to incorporate an evidence-based approach to improving my practice and to support my peers to enhance their practice, minimizing personal biases when implementing change.