Dr Rachael Hains-Wesson (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Work-Integrated Learning and the Director for the University of Sydney Business School' Work-Integrated Learning Hub. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne (which ranked the top Masters in Creative Writing in the world at the time) and a PhD from the University of Western Australia. She was awarded the prestigious Convocation award (UWA) as a visiting scholar for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Rachael is also submitting her second PhD in Education from Deakin University, Melbourne, which will be her 7th degree qualification.
Rachael has extensive practical experience as an Entrepreneur, Creative Industries expert and is a renowned leader in Higher Education pedagogy and practice for Work-Integrated Learning. She has extensive experience managing and leading for change in international and Australian not-for-profit organisations, the military and start-up enterprises.
Rachael has received and has been regularly nominated for top teaching awards, including Vice Chancellor awards for Outstanding Teaching from students. She was a 2000 Queen’s Trust Foundation and Myer Foundation Awardee for her acclaimed works in Theatre-in-Education that focused on providing anti-bullying programs for primary and secondary educational institutions around Australia. She was the original writer for Theatre-in-Education programs that focused on supporting students to prevent bullying in the school yard in Australian primary schools throughout the early 2000s.
Rachael is well-known for her work in the Creative Industries, Work-Integrated Learning and for leading large-scale curriculum transformation projects for improving policy, systems and learning outcomes for enhancing the student experience, having published widely in these areas.
Rachael’s media and journal articles, book chapters as well as her plays and books (over 100 publications) have been published in a number of reputable outlets, nationally and internationally.
My Teaching Philosophy
The reason I believe that I have a sound understanding of the importance of why teachers should treat their students as fellow learners is due to my earlier educational experience, which was not easy. 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 my 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 able to show me that I actually learn best when the topic, content, assessments, learning experiences and delivery are about real-world events that have social and personal connections that I believe are also important. Later, this connection became part of my professional learning journey, because I 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 and social problems.
Today, the inter-meshing of my earlier learner experience with my professional adult experience has shaped my views on what I perceive as “good” teaching. 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 for improving practice. This insight has led me to delve further into the literature and to discover how my practice aligns with social constructionist theory, because at the heart of constructiveness is a concern for the lived experience, or the world as it is felt and understood by social actors (Au, 1998; Schwandt, 1994).
Hains-Wesson's Philosophy of Practice for team-teaching (2020)