The star undergrad involved in high level research

December 17, 2014

A Murdoch University psychology undergraduate is involved in a research project which could see him peer reviewed before he completes his degree.

Chris Cunningham, 25, is investigating the teaching of oral communications at Australian universities. He argues the topic should be a compulsory unit at all universities because it will enhance the employment options and improve the professional competence of graduates.

The initial stages of his independent inquiry will inform an application for an Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) Innovation and Development research grant worth up to $500,000.

Mr Cunningham has already garnered interest from potential collaborators at other universities after successfully presenting on the topic at the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) National Forum in Wollongong, New South Wales, in October.

“Giving presentations and clear oral communications are key skills at many workplaces and yet hardly any Australian universities offer oral communications classes,” explained Mr Cunningham, who is one of seven PASS leaders at Murdoch who facilitate study groups in various units.

“At many universities in the United States, oral communications is a compulsory unit. At the PASS National Forum, I argued that the PASS sessions we run with students could be an ideal forum for building presentation skills because it is a safer atmosphere for students to practice and try things out.”

Mr Cunningham’s supervisor on the PASS program Pamela Martin-Lynch from the Centre for University Teaching and Learning said he had shown a great deal of initiative in researching peer learning and was himself a highly-skilled presenter.

“Chris will have a publications record before he completes his degree which will be thoroughly deserved – he is an exceptional student,” she said.

“His ideas and research into layering learning and mentoring students as a form of learning is highly innovative.”

Mr Cunningham was also selected to attend the Leadership, Excellence, Accelerating Potential (LEAP) course at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in late July.

In addition, he was a national finalist in the Outstanding New Leader Awards at the PASS National Forum.

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