Teaching and Learning Forum

Ms Jan Fermelis

Position: Senior Lecturer

Faculty: Business and Law
School: Management and Marketing
Discipline: Business Communication

Campus: Burwood
+61 3 924 46165



"I get a real buzz out of teaching and from knowing that I've made a difference to students, that what I've done with them has helped open their eyes and given them skills which they then find useful. That's very encouraging."

Ms Jan Fermelis is Director of International and Communication Programs, Faculty Tutorial Support Program Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in the School of Management and Marketing. Before moving into higher education13 years ago, Jan taught in Technical And Further Education (TAFE) and secondary schools. She is currently undertaking a PhD in intercultural business communication in Shanghai.


Jan is passionate about teaching and aims to make a positive difference to students' personal and professional development. She believes strongly in the value of her discipline, business communication, in supporting generic skills development that will help students become professionals in the future.

Approaches and methods

Jan's approach to teaching and learning is based on genuine care and respect for students and a teaching philosophy that caters to the whole person and recognises the importance of connecting students' experiences in class with their total Deakin experience and life beyond university.

Throughout her fifteen years with the Communication Skills and Business Communication programs Jan has been responsible for ensuring that Commerce students develop the generic skills required to facilitate academic success, self development, lifelong learning and successful entry into a professional career. She constructs learning materials and assessment tasks to enable students to apply the theoretical aspects of their learning to academic contexts and in practical contemporary business and organisational contexts.

Business Communication is a core unit undertaken by 1800 to 2000 students within an academic year, with much teaching being delivered by casual staff. To support consistency in the quality of students' learning, for more than six years Jan led the development of a set of innovative and sophisticated teaching materials and learning tasks, and learning objectives that are linked to generic skills and integrated throughout materials. She has also devoted time to recruiting, training and retaining excellent casual academic staff.

Many of Jan's students are international and with a Masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, she is very aware of the needs of students who are not learning in their first language. Jan believes that it is essential to clearly state objectives so that students understand the rationale and relevance of their learning and of assessment tasks, and to make these achievable through appropriate guidance and assessment. Reading, lectures, learning activities and assessment tasks are integrated to prepare students and provide formative and summative feedback. For example, students are prepared for a document creation assignment by lecture, reading materials, unit learning objectives, assignment instructions and published marking rubrics. They receive feedback during class and in comprehensive written form.

Jan has found that strong models are extremely useful teaching tools. She provides students with a variety of models, usually three, to demonstrate to students that there are different ways of producing work of the desired standard and to avert the risk of cloning. She is also meticulous about modelling good communication practice in every communication with students.

Enhancing teaching

Jan believes that ongoing critical reflection and improvement are at the core of teaching enhancement. By monitoring student discussion on Deakin Studies Online (DSO), reviewing student evaluations and considering feedback from colleagues, she learns about areas that may require clarification or other improvement. Jan is scrupulous about addressing the relevant issues raised by modifying materials or assessment.

She also rates attendance at teaching and learning events as valuable and credits a professional development fellowship with the Institute of Teaching and Learning with helping her to make cross-faculty contacts and successfully develop teaching and learning grant applications that have led to collaborations with other Deakin staff who share her passion for teaching. One such example is a Strategic Teaching and Learning Grant Scheme (STALGS)-funded project to develop a self and peer assessment tool on which she collaborated with Dr Stuart Palmer from the Institute of Teaching and Learning and another fellow of the Teaching Leaders' Forum, Dr Richard Tucker.

Jan regards collaborations with staff within other Deakin schools, faculties and administrative divisions as vital and has collaborated with the Division of Student Life (DSL) to support students' skill development by introducing interview simulations and DSL website materials for employment communication into Business Communication classes. She has also liaised closely with Deakin International for many years to break down administrative barriers and facilitate an improved teaching and learning environment for international students.

Jan has received consistently high Student Evaluation of Teaching and Unit (SETU) ratings. Having taught thousands of students, she encounters former students in a range of settings, quite often by chance. She has been encouraged and rewarded by uniformly positive comments about the value that former students place on what they learned in her class.

Audio Icon Audio clip: Jan Fermelis on strategies for enhancing teaching

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Research and teaching

For Jan, combining teaching and research has produced multiple benefits. Collaborative research with the Institute of Teaching and Learning into the assessment regimen for Business Communication thoroughly integrated objectives, teaching, learning and assessment and generated a conference paper. Jan's recent involvement in a STALGS project around self and peer assessment has led to numerous publications, including a book chapter, and proved enormously satisfying at multiple levels.

Jan keeps up to date with trends and developments in her disciplines via maintaining productive professional affiliations, reading pedagogical journals and by attending and presenting at internal and external conferences and this research directly informs her teaching. In addition she believes that there are significant benefits for her students from her practice of remaining informed about prevailing business practices as well as future directions.

Jan featured as a case study on teaching large units and international students in the Graduate Certificate of Higher Education.


Jan is taking a leadership role in the following teaching and learning related activities:

  • development and coordination of the Faculty of Business and Law Tutorial Support Program which aims to improve academic and learning outcomes for new international students in core and professionally critical units. She has overseen the program's expansion from supporting one unit to supporting 12 units, four of which Jan has supported personally.
  • contributions to the Business@Deakin program which aims to improve the academic and learning outcomes of international students enrolling with advanced standing
  • participation in a range of Careers Month activities annually
  • mentoring of new academic staff in relation to teaching skills.


  • BA (Hons)
  • DipEd
  • MTESOL [Monash]



  • Carrick Institute (now Australian Learning and Teaching Council) Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
  • Vice-Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching
  • Deakin University Award for Teaching Excellence


  • Institute of Teaching and Learning Professional Development Fellow


  • Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching and Learning


  • Faculty of Business and Law Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Faculty's Operational Plan in Student Support


  • Faculty of Business and Law Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Faculty's Strategic Priorities in Teaching


  • Nominee—Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Achievement


  • Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Achievement for Student Support Services


  • Australian Postgraduate Course Award



  • STALGS grant—Fair Assessment and Reflective Learning: A cross-faculty online self-and peer-assessment tool for teamwork assignments piloted in architecture and business communications, Faculty of Science and Technology


Memberships (Teaching and learning related)

  • Asian Studies Association of Australia
  • Association for Business Communication
  • Higher Education Research and Development Society
  • The Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education

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29th July 2010