"The inter-meshing of my earlier learning involvement with my professional adult experience has shaped my views on what I perceive as “good” teaching and learning. 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 and reflect on action and why it is a crucial element to improving practice. This insight has led me to delve further into the scholarship of teaching and learning that is evidence-based and meaningful. Continually, I analyse the messiness of group work and teaching, which is important to me. This allows me to incorporate an evidence-based approach to improve my practice and support colleagues, helping to enhance performance, minimizing personal biases, welcoming change, and celebrating failure as an essential part of the learning journey."
Rachael Hains-Wesson (PhD; PhD) is an Associate Professor of Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), Director and Head of Discipline (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 in Creative Writing courses in the world at the time). Her first PhD was from the 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 and has recently received the Elon University WIL Research Fellowship (2022-2025).
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 national (AAUT) and Vice Chancellor awards for Outstanding Teaching from the University of Western Australia and University of Sydney. She was awarded a Queen Elizabeth 11 Silver Jubilee Trust for Young Australians and is a Myer Foundation awardee 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 experiences. She has published widely via different mediums, including social media and peer-reviewed 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 highly specialised nursing care. She also worked as a learning and teaching support staff member, teaching first aid to military recruits.
Rachael is currently serving on 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 Gold Reimagine Education award, winning the overall education section for providing international postgraduate students with key employability skills and work experience. This award is led by the Wharton SEI Centre for Advanced Studies in Management at the University of Pennsylvania, contributing to the World University Rankings. She has also contributed to several video, podcasts and opinion pieces for and with students.
Rachael: "Personally, as an earlier learner I often struggled to succeed compared to my peers. I came from an economic and socially disadvantaged background. 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 are important. Later, this connection became part of my professional learning journey, because I also established a successful social enterprise company, 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."
"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, i.e. together, 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 provides 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 educational methodology when undertaking research evaluation projects, which covers both student learning and teacher support. I therefore continually analyse the messiness of teaching, which is important to me. It allows me to incorporate an evidence-based approach to improve my practice and to support my peers to enhance their practice, minimizing personal biases or relying on gut instinct alone."
Work-Integrated Learning Hub Winner
(University of Sydney, 2021)