Assoc Prof Maree Bernoth

Associate Professor Maree Bernoth is an academic in the School of Nursing Midwifery and Indigenous Health. She teaches ageing and research and has successfully supervised Higher Degree Research students from Honours to PhD. She has been involved with the residential aged care sector as an academic and a Registered Nurse. Her PhD explored what it means to be safe working in residential aged care.


While learning about ageing is essential for students aspiring to be registered nurses, students have found the teaching resources not engaging, making teaching the subject a challenge. There are many valuable textbooks that cover the knowledge and skills required to work in the ageing sector, however, these same textbooks have failed to engage students’ interest. This is the challenge faced by many who teach in this area. This is where the story begins, Maree looked for creative ways to engage her students, and in collaboration with Denise Winkler and a team of enthusiastic clinicians and academics, created a text based on stories of older people. The stories engage the students and then the learning happens by teasing out the theory and other aspects of ageing embedded in the life experiences of older people. To guide students through the text the subject development team wrote a weekly magazine entitled “Milestones Magazine” and a game called GSELA where the reward for reading the material and answering questions correctly means a reduction in age of the avatar. These strategies have been reviewed over the three semesters where the subject has been taught and has produced positive results with encouraging student feedback and an increase in student engagement evidenced in the subject analytics.

What’s important about this learning and teaching story?

Our ageing population is growing exponentially and jobs in this area have been identified as one of the fastest growing industries. It is important that students engage with the knowledge and concepts early in their studies to enable them to gain the foundation to be successful in the ageing practice. Therefore, the subject development team believe the 3-in-1 strategy in this post can provide insight into how effective teaching, engagement and progression can be achieved even in areas where topics are considered irrelevant and boring by students.

What were you trying to achieve?

Our 3-in-1 strategy is exactly that, we designed three learning tools and resources into the subject to facilitate engagement and spark students’ curiosity. They were:

  1. Create a customised textbook that students could sympathise, even empathise with;
  2. Design subject modules that students would be inclined to interact with; and
  3. Create formative assessments that were both fun and educational and based on their engagement with the game, GSELA.

What did it look like?

Customised textbook

Working with Denise Winkler and other academics from CSU and clinicians from Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Maree created a book that draws from storytelling. Each chapter revolves around a specific story that students get to know and then theory and concepts are draw out from the story. These stories were drawn from real, older members of the communities Maree and Denise worked with, some of which were video-ed and are accessible through a web link in the book. These real stories were woven into the narrative of each chapter. Oxford University Press approached Maree to write the text and were brave enough to support this model of teaching and learning.

L-R: Professor Rylee Dionigi, Assoc Prof Maree Bernoth, Denise Winkler

Interactive subject modules – “Milestones Magazine”

For this part of the strategy, Maree drew from popular culture and designed her modules as weekly magazines, linking stories and content to the narratives in the textbook. “Gossip” and first-person accounts were used to draw in the students and to encourage them to seek out “correct” information.

GSELA – Scenario-based quiz

With the help of media services team, Maree designed a gamified quiz where students took on an avatar and went on a “choose your own adventure” which aligned with learnings from each week. The scenarios were based on the narratives in the textbook, therefore the students learning activities in the quiz were directly linked to the stories and characters they were now familiar with.

How can I make this happen?
Maree is happy to chat about this 3-in-1 strategy. It needs to be noted that for the scenario-based quiz, a CSU Learning and Teaching grant of $15,000 was used to fund the development of the gamified quiz.