Gary Velan

Professor Velan is a dedicated medical educator with more than 25 years of experience at UNSW.

Gary is a Professor and former Head of the Dept of Pathology (2005-2016) as well as Director of Learning and Teaching Development (2011-2018) within the School of Medical Sciences. He was appointed Associate Dean (Education) in Medicine in 2016 and Senior Vice Dean (Education) in 2018. Gary’s innovations in education include the introduction of online formative assessments to UNSW, as well as the development of virtual microscopy adaptive tutorials (VMATs). Those resources have resulted in improved learning outcomes for students in Medicine and Medical Science at UNSW and beyond.

He is internationally recognised for research in medical education, focusing on eLearning as well as assessment and feedback, and has been a key contributor to educational research projects funded for more than $4.5 million. In 2015, Gary received a UNSW Learning and Teaching Fellowship to develop and implement standards‐based assessment in the biomedical sciences. In the same year, his contribution to scholarship in medical education was acknowledged by the award of a Fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE).  He currently leads a UNSW SEIF1 grant awarded to the Scientia Education Academy to develop an online education portfolio (showcase) for academic staff.

Gary’s achievements in education have been recognised within UNSW by two Vice Chancellor's Awards for Teaching Excellence (2003 and 2009) and a Vice Chancellor's Award for Programs that Enhance Learning (2016), at a state level by a NSW Minister of Education's Quality Teaching Award (2003), and at a national level by a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2007) and a Teaching Excellence Award (2010) from the Federal Government’s Office for Learning and Teaching.

Gary is an Academic Mentor at UNSW. Read more here

Gary is the Co-Director of the Scientia Education Academy (July 2019 - present).

Title: Developing an Educational Portfolio for UNSW 

Project lead: Gary Velan, 
Project members: All foundation fellows

Description: Research has traditionally been rewarded and recognised more than teaching at leading universities such as UNSW. One reason for this disparity is that measures of research excellence are widely used and accepted. In contrast, there are no generally accepted measures of teaching excellence. 
This project aims to build on existing literature and evaluation tools to develop measures of educational excellence at UNSW that can be used to provide essential feedback to staff about their teaching performance. These can then be used to evaluate and reward excellence via teaching awards and academic promotion. Members of the Scientia Education Academy are collaborating with national and international experts in educational evaluation to develop appropriate measures for use at UNSW. Such measures will be standards-based, thereby providing transparency regarding the level required at UNSW to achieve educational excellence across a number of criteria. The measures and associated performance standards, guidelines and exemplars across a variety of disciplines will be refined following feedback from students and staff, including Heads of School and Associate Deans Education, in all Faculties at UNSW. The measures will then be piloted to support reflective practice in education and its recognition in teaching awards and academic promotion.

This project intends to deliver the following outcomes:

  1. Development of performance standards, guidelines and exemplars for an education portfolio for UNSW staff;
  2. Development of guidelines for the evaluation of education portfolios, useful for reviewing applications for teaching awards and academic promotion.
  3. An integrated measure of educational excellence at UNSW, with the education portfolio incorporating outcomes of student surveys of teaching quality and peer review of educational practice.
  4. Establishment of a community of practice that enables and supports academic staff in standard-based evaluation of educational excellence at UNSW.

Commencing in July 2017, the project team consulted with higher education experts in Australia and overseas, using a Delphi process to determine the dimensions of teaching practice to be incorporated in a UNSW education portfolio. This Delphi process incorporated academics (n=65) from a variety of disciplines at UNSW, across Australia and internationally, to ensure that institutional and disciplinary differences in conceptions of educational excellence are acknowledged and incorporated into design of the UNSW education portfolio. The first round of the Delphi process identified 13 dimensions of effective teaching practice in higher education. Respondents in the second round of the Delphi process (n=58) prioritised 4 of those dimensions for incorporation into an education portfolio. Already, a community of practice has been established by this process.

School level contributions

  • School of Medical Sciences Learning and Teaching Development, Director


Faculty level contributions

  • Medicine, Education Committee, Chair
  • Medicine, Program Evaluation and Improvement Group, Chair
  • Medicine, Professionalism Working Party, Chair
  • Medicine, Indigenous Health Education Working Party, Chair
  • Medicine, Biomedical Sciences Working Party, Chair
  • Medicine, Assessment Development and Evaluation Committee
  • Medicine, Faculty Board
  • Medicine, Faculty Governance Committee
  • Medicine, Curriculum Development Committee
  • Medicine, Phase 1 Committee
  • Medicine, Phase 2 Committee
  • Medicine, Phase 3 Committee


UNSW level contributions

  • UNSW Scientia Education Academy
  • Academic Board (representing Dean of Medicine)
  • Academic Quality Committee
  • Digital Assessment Working Group
  • Echo360 Upgrade Project Board
  • NUW Alliance Healthcare Systems Working Group
  • UNSW 3+ Academic Reference Group
  • UNSW Online Steering Committee

External contributions

  • Australian College of Educators (ACE)
  • Australian and New Zealand Associate of Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE), Fellow
  • Journal of Biomedical Education, Editorial Committee
  • Medical Education Leads, Australia and New Zealand, Member

2019: myEducation Portfolio: What is it, and why does it matter?

This lecture will explain the rationale for the development of myEducation Portfolio, a platform that enables UNSW staff to demonstrate their educational achievements in relation to the dimensions of effective teaching in higher education. myEducation Portfolio will be integrated into the UNSW academic promotion process from 2020. UNSW academic staff can engage with myEducation Portfolio to commence building (or add to) their education portfolios.

The evidence base for the development of myEducation Portfolio will be discussed, as well as the types of evidence and sources of evidence that staff could utilise to build their own portfolios. Exemplar portfolios will be explored, and staff will be informed how to create their own profiles, as well as how to add evidence to their education portfolios for professional development and academic promotion.

Click here to view the lecture recording

2017: The Scientia Educational Experience: Roles of Assessment, Feedback (and Humour)

The pillars of the Scientia Educational Experience are ‘Communities’, ‘Inspired learning though inspiring teaching’, ‘Feedback and dialogue’, and ‘Being digital’. No matter how well academics design curricula, we know that assessment and feedback will play crucial roles in students’ learning, as well as their educational experience.

In this lecture, examples of how assessment and feedback are currently implemented to benefit students’ learning in Medicine was explored, as well as their potential applicability in other disciplines. The under-appreciated positive impact of humour on learning was also addressed (with utmost seriousness).

Click here to view the lecture recording. 

Using the Lecture Recordings+ active learning tools to promote student engagement in large group teaching sessions

Presented by Dr Cristan Herbert, Senior Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences and Professor Gary Velan, Associate Dean (Education) in Medicine, Scientia Education Fellow, Faculty of Medicine

Getting students to attend large-group teaching sessions and keeping them engaged throughout is a particular challenge.

To achieve these goals for introductory Pathology courses for Medical Science and Exercise Physiology students (PATH2201/2202), a blended approach to learning was introduced, with overview lectures supported by online modules. Large-group feedback/integration sessions were also introduced, which featured in-class questions to which students could respond using mobile devices. Since their introduction in 2015, attendance at these sessions has been consistently high and they are frequently praised in student feedback.

Interactive questions are just one of the active learning tools which are now available to academics at UNSW via Lecture Recordings+. This presentation outlined the active learning tools available via the Lecture Recordings+ service and how we have successfully used these to promote engagement and enhance the learning experience for students in large undergraduate courses.

The recording of this seminar is available via Moodle.