This is how I teach

This month we spoke to Associate Professor Adam Montagu, Director, Adelaide Health Simulation. Adam was one of four staff to receive a 2022 Stephen Cole the Elder Award for Excellence as part of last year’s Celebration of Learning and Teaching. He was also recognised at this event through the presentation of the Vice-Chancellors award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching for Outstanding and sustained demonstration of leadership in the enhancement of learning in Health and Medical Sciences. Here, Adam speaks to us about how he facilitates a safe learning environment for his students, and the learning theories which support and influence his teaching philosophy.


Adam Montagu 2023

What do you like most about teaching in your discipline?
The most enjoyable aspect of my role is working with a diverse group of passionate staff and learners across many disciplines. Our students range from complete novice to expert. I get most satisfaction from leading an incredible team of people that constantly innovate to create high impact learning experiences for our current and future health workforce.

How would you describe your approach to teaching/your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is underpinned by an appreciation and respect for the power simulation affords in the journey of learning. To understand my philosophy, it must first be appreciated that within a simulation enhanced learning environment, we actively aim to facilitate a safe environment that allows students to make mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution. This approach perhaps deviates from traditional models of teaching where one rewards ‘correct’ and punishes (by way of removing marks for example) ‘incorrect’. There is no room for a reward/punish model in simulation education. As a teacher I encourage the learner to experiment and feel safe to allow for error, free of judgement. This approach allows me to observe and enquire about the learner’s process, providing a window to their thought process and decision-making framework.

There are several learning theories that support and influence my teaching philosophy. I believe, most notably, that a constructivist approach to learning and teaching can be well applied to simulation-based learning. Constructivist theory is based on the learner creating their own meaning through interaction with the environment. Constructivist pedagogy also asserts knowledge is not simply passed from teacher to student but is also created between learners and groups of learners as they process interactions with the environment. I enjoy identifying when an emphasis for direct teaching is required and equally when to transition to a facilitative role, providing a well-constructed simulation debrief allowing learners to share a common experience and share ideas from alternate perspectives.

What is your favourite way to use technology to enhance learning?
Simulation is often thought of as a technology, however it’s fundamentally a teaching technique. Educators immerse learners in an environment for the purpose of guiding them through an experience that aims to replicate ‘real-life’. There are four primary simulation modalities used to achieve this:

  • Simulated patients and actors
  • Manikins, or human patient simulators (we never call them dummies!)
  • Virtual Reality and Immersive technologies
  • Hybrid, a mix of all three.

Personally, my favourite way to implement technology is having developed the expertise to know what learning outcomes will align best with which modality. My motto is, and always will be, focus on technique over technology!

How does your teaching help prepare students for their future?
Simulation Based Education contributes to student development in a variety of ways, I believe most importantly:

  • Engaging in the simulated environment as a student clinician provides an opportunity to develop and experiment with professional identity;
  • Low frequency, high consequence clinical events can be safely experienced by students in a controlled manner. Confidence and capability are enhanced, and patient safety is improved;
  • Simulation encourages and teaches purposeful reflective practice. Students learn to reflect on episodes of care, self-identify areas for improvement, and implement change. This reflective behaviour is fundamental for our future health professionals’ journey of life-long learning.

Complete a ‘virtual tour’ of AHS:

Like to learn more about the Stephen Cole awards, with a view to apply this year or in the future?  Register to attend the lunch time information session on Friday, 24 February

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