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December 2006 Issue
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National teaching award for water expert


A University of Adelaide academic renowned for his work in water resources and environmental management has been awarded one of the most prestigious teaching prizes in Australia.

Associate Professor Holger Maier has been presented with a $25,000 Australian University Award for Teaching Excellence by the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at a ceremony in Parliament House, Canberra.

The prize honours the nation's most outstanding university teachers in their fields.

Described as "an exemplary practitioner of student-centred teaching", Associate Professor Maier from the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering teaches in water resources and environmental engineering. He is internationally renowned for his research into sustainable water resources and infrastructure management.

Assoc. Prof. Maier has been able to successfully integrate his research and professional knowledge into his teaching and has been a pioneer in developing a number of innovative approaches to teaching. These include online role-play simulations and other active learning methods for developing technical and generic graduate attributes.

He is the co-developer of the multi award-winning Mekong e-Sim, an online role-play simulation designed to enhance students' problem-solving abilities and help them experience the impact of engineering projects on society.

With the aid of funding from the University of Adelaide, Assoc. Prof. Maier is currently assisting other areas within the university to adopt the e-Sim model. For example, the e-Sim concept has already been used by Adelaide nursing students to simulate a response to a bomb explosion in the outback, requiring them to develop procedures to cope with such a disaster.

"The Mekong eSim helps students learn that engineering is not about sitting at a desk with a calculator. It's about communicating and learning real-world skills that can be used to tackle complex environmental and water resources problems, such as those currently experienced in Australia," Assoc. Prof. Maier said.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide Professor James McWha said Assoc. Prof. Maier recognised early in his teaching that students needed an "authentic learning and assessment environment to engage their interest and develop their cognitive, social and emotional character".

"He is always seeking improvements in his teaching and is never content to rest on past achievements. He is an inspirational example of a professional engineer, who generates original research and uses this scholarly basis to excite his students."

In 2002 Assoc. Prof. Maier was awarded a Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in Teaching - the highest honour bestowed within the University of Adelaide for teaching excellence. He was also the Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) in the Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

Professor McWha says Assoc. Prof. Maier's award caps off an exceptional year for the University's teaching staff, who have also received one Associate Fellowship and seven Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Associate Professor Holger Maier (right) with some of his students, Liam Harnett, Meredith Gee, and Brittany Coff (at front) on the banks of the Torrens River
Photo by Greg Adams, courtesy of <i>The Advertiser</i>

Associate Professor Holger Maier (right) with some of his students, Liam Harnett, Meredith Gee, and Brittany Coff (at front) on the banks of the Torrens River
Photo by Greg Adams, courtesy of The Advertiser

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