Sutarsa brings up the 500

Sutarsa I Nyoman FHEA

He may be the Educational Fellowship Scheme’s 500th ANU-based Fellow, but for Sutarsa Nyoman of the ANU Medical School, the learning styles and teaching expectations at ANU are a world apart from those in his home country of Bali, where his teaching career first began.

After graduating as a Medical Doctor from Udayana University in 2008, Sutarsa spent time working for International NGOs, as well as a local hospital. While doing so, he realised that his own medical education hadn’t prepared him for these working environments. A seed was planted in his mind, and he made the decision to return to the classroom and provide aspiring doctors with the link between theory and practice he believed had been missing from his own education. And so began his teaching career, commencing at 2010 in Bali, continuing on to 2011-2013 (pursuing MPH) in Melbourne, before he landed at the ANU Medical School in mid-2015.

“I think the level of independence for the students [here in Australia] is a big difference, and one that is really noticeable,” he reflected.

“In Bali, it feels like the role of the teacher is to just give everything to the students, independent work is not really encouraged, but here it is really different. You can discuss things with your students, you can disagree with your students, but in Bali, it is really teacher-centred.”

While Sutarsa admits he initially found this new way of teaching tough to adjust to, he now revels in a dialogic teaching style, and the opportunity he gets to help gently shape the future direction of his students, and where necessary, encourage them to view their futures through a slightly altered lens.

“I really like the idea of motivating my students, and also encouraging them to see things through a different angle,” he says.

“In the medical arena, for example, I like to assure them that it’s okay to not want to be a physician, there are many different avenues you can take if you have a medical degree, there are many ways to contribute to the health industry.”

Over the past 12 months, teaching accolades have started to roll in for Sutarsa. In addition to becoming a Fellow of AdvanceHE in December last year, he was also the recipient of a 2018 ANU College of Science Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, and a nominee for the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Education. While official recognition is always welcome, the knowledge that he has impacted a students’ life is the best reward he can receive. He nominates a recent email from an international undergraduate student asking for advice on the next steps in her study as a highlight of his teaching career to-date, with the privilege of being able to play a role in the development of this student being a source of pride for him.

The provision of advice and guidance is something Sutarsa clearly enjoys, and as a member of the EFS, he is now looking forward to gently nudging colleagues into kick-starting their own application process. He believes he grew as an educator while writing his Fellowship application, and he wants to see his colleagues reap similar benefits.

“The process allowed me to reflect on what I had done in the past, evaluate whether it worked or not, and think about what I can do to improve that,” he says.

“It’s a good reflective process, especially for me – I’m quite new at the ANU, so it was a big learning curve. Looking at what I did in Bali and how that is applicable here, that was part of the reflection that I did along the way.

“The recognition is one thing, but the process of writing your application also helps to define your motivation as to why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place.”