Teaching and Learning Forum

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller

Senior Lecturer

Faculty: Faculty of Science and Technology
School: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Discipline:Environmental Science

Campus: Burwood
Phone: +61 3 925 17615
Email: kelly.miller@deakin.edu.au



"What I value most about teaching is two-way communication between staff and students. It is extremely rewarding when students are enthusiastic and participate fully in class discussions and activities. Fostering open and honest communication helps to develop mutual respect and results in a learning environment in which everyone can have input."

Dr Kelly Miller is a Senior Lecturer and Unit Chair in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. She joined Deakin in 2002, having previously worked as a lecturer and consultant. Kelly coordinates the Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours) program at the Melbourne Campus and supervises honours and postgraduate students.


Kelly enjoys teaching students who share her passion and interest in environmental science, planning and management. She finds it rewarding to be able to pass on what she has learned about these areas and assist individual students to overcome learning challenges. Kelly also appreciates the variety of activities and interactions which are offered through the blend of teaching and research in higher education.

Audio Icon Audio clip: Kelly Miller on her motivation for teaching in higher education

Approaches and methods

Kelly is an enthusiastic, committed and scholarly educator who believes that respect and support for the development of students as individuals are critical components of quality teaching. Two-way communication is essential. Kelly continues to learn from her students and strives to facilitate a teaching and learning environment in which everyone can have input.

Her teaching philosophy is to give students ample opportunity to discuss problems, assignments and course materials; to respond to student inquiries within 24 hours wherever possible; to provide timely feedback on assignments; and to seek feedback on unit curriculum and delivery.

Kelly teaches face-to-face and wholly online units. She develops curriculum, assessment and communication pathways with the view that every student has something important to contribute and that it is her responsibility to provide that opportunity.

Kelly uses a variety of teaching approaches, including face-to-face lectures and tutorials, field trips, online discussions through Deakin Studies Online (DSO), online tutorials via eLive, individual student appointments, weekly email reminders and individual student email updates.

She is a leader in online unit delivery in her school. Research has shown that environmental science students find it difficult to learn online. Kelly endeavours to engage students by innovatively delivering content through Deakin Studies Online (DSO), eLive and CD-ROM. She introduced online tutorials and lectures using eLive in direct response to feedback from students that they would like more interaction with staff. eLive has proved an effective way to connect with students, offering them the opportunity to ask questions, to talk to Kelly and to each other and to feel that they're part of a class. These additions have all vastly improved the unit, which was previously delivered primarily through DSO. When survey responses suggested that students felt they could leave things until the last minute, Kelly introduced weekly email reminders and individual student email updates. Online tutorials also helped students avoid this pitfall. Students have responded positively to all these measures.

Kelly believes that current information, hands-on learning and interaction are essentials for effective teaching and learning in environmental science. She frequently updates materials to ensure students receive the latest news in environmental science and provides opportunities to combine theory with contemporary practice. Having given students the relevant theory, Kelly invites guest speakers from industry to talk about related current events and challenges in the field. Through this interaction, students broaden their understanding of topics and gain insights into future career opportunities.

Role-plays also offer the chance to combine theory, practice and interaction. One such example is a mock Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing around a current environment planning issue. Students take on the roles of a range of stakeholders and become familiar with a variety of perspectives, as well as the relevant regulatory and decision-making systems.

More broadly, enthusiasm and commitment are critical. In keeping with Kelly's teaching philosophy, she sees these qualities as being two-way: combining the teacher's commitment to help students understand concepts and assignments and the student's commitment to participate fully. Such interaction promotes respect and ongoing learning for all.

Audio Icon Audio clip: Kelly Miller on essentials of teaching and learning in Environmental Science

Enhancing teaching

Kelly's commitment to two-way communication is also reflected in ongoing evaluation of her teaching. Through additional student surveys to the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Unit (SETU) system, she regularly seeks feedback from students about unit curriculum, teaching methods and assessment. Drawing on a study of students in a wholly online unit, Kelly modified its delivery, with the result that SETU scores significantly improved. She also developed a paper around this study, which was published in the International Journal of Learning. With colleagues, Kelly also presented findings from a survey of students at an international conference on learning and published a related paper in the International Journal of Learning.

Kelly has strong connections with industry and employers, particularly State and local government, which she believes further enhance teaching by showing students where their course of study is leading and offering them ideas about future directions and employment opportunities.

For Kelly, choosing to complete the Graduate Certificate of Higher Education provided a valuable opportunity to reflect on her teaching. During the course she completed a reflective journal. Kelly has continued to document her practice, which has proven essential for ongoing enhancement of her teaching. Likewise, teaching awards have given Kelly the chance to reflect on her teaching and plan for future improvements.

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Research and teaching

In class, Kelly integrates current discipline research into teaching case studies, which illustrate theoretical frameworks, show students what is currently happening and what is possible for the future.

Kelly's teaching scholarship has focused on online learning and student expectations in environmental science courses. She has published in this area in refereed journals and presented at Australian and international conferences.

With colleagues, Kelly is participating in a Strategic Teaching and Learning Grant Scheme (STALGS)-funded project to identify what students want in an environment science course. For several years, commencing students have been surveyed during Orientation Week about what they're hoping to gain from the course. The project is surveying graduates to find out if they have the employment skills needed to find work in environment science or whether additional skills are needed. Employers will also be surveyed about what they seek from environment science graduates. Kelly sees the particular value of the project as its combination of research and teaching, where research will directly inform courses and course curriculum.


Kelly is taking a leadership role in course coordination of the Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours) program and has participated in a range of faculty and school committees related to teaching and learning. Mentorship is another interest. Kelly has mentored Year 9 students in the Deakin-Presbyterian Ladies College mentorship program. She is also available as a mentor to academic staff.

Student quotes (from 2006 SETU)

"The best teacher I have had at uni. Teaching and requirements made clear. Constant communication through email very helpful."

"Kelly is a fantastic teacher, who not only provided us with clear and diverse information by herself and guest speakers on a variety of topics, but also went to the trouble of giving up her time to help myself and others giving advice, reminders and so forth. As a result, this has influenced me to concentrate on a career relating to sustainability and impact assessment."

"Kelly was absolutely fantastic. She is the most organised member of staff I've had dealings with at Deakin and the way the whole unit ran was impeccable and extremely interesting and fun!"

"Kelly was very passionate and enthusiastic about teaching which made it enjoyable to come to lectures. She took an interest in all her students and helped out wherever possible. Excellent. 10/10."

"Kelly is an exceptional teacher and uses a variety of skills and value added things to enhance the Unit. She readily seeks student feedback by quizzes, uses guest lecturers and uses contemporary examples not old theoretical ones. She also provides students with extra information or contacts to assist them (if they are interested). I will enjoy undertaking other units with Kelly."


  • BAppSc (Environmental Management)
  • BSc (Hons)
  • PhD [Deakin]
  • GCert. Higher Ed [Deakin]



  • Deakin University Award for Teaching Excellence



  • STALGS grant (Project participant)—The professional learning journey: enhancing the learning experience through an understanding of graduate perceptions


Memberships (teaching and learning related)

  • School of Life and Environmental Sciences Teaching and Learning Committee (2007-current)

  • School of Life and Environmental Sciences Teaching and Learning, Honours sub-committee (2007-current)

  • Faculty of Science and Technology Marketing Committee (2006-current)

  • School of Life and Environmental Sciences Marketing Committee (2006-current)

  • Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (2002-2008)

  • Faculty of Science and Technology Human Ethics Advisory Group (2002-2008)

  • School of Ecology and Environment Teaching and Learning Management Committee (2003)

  • School of Ecology and Environment Academic Progress and Discipline Committee (2003)

  • Bachelor of Park Management Course Advisory Committee (2003)

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Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

29th July 2010