Lessons Learned: Be a Rick

ECA Blog: March 2024
Dr. Vivian Romero, Early Career Academic Committee, Deputy Chair

I adore the fact that I am still learning and I hope you will chuckle along as I share my failure. My lesson learned emerged from a creative assessment. So, as teaching academics, we are in the dark forest of the AI assessment world. I may be one of the few who say good riddance to the traditional 3000-word essay. Assessing content learning is insufficient as AI can sputter out a coherent (albeit ill-referenced) tome in 30 seconds. I have always been interested in how people learn and engaging people’s creative side. With a nod to SOLT, I investigated how we might make assessments authentic and minimise AI submissions.

As my students in participatory health research can attest, my class activities move them out of their comfort zone. So why not in their assessments? I thus required students to draw a picture depicting a specific experience that influenced their thinking.

Accompanying the drawing is an appropriately referenced reflection. Students are not judged on their drawing ability; stick figures most certainly welcomed.

To demonstrate, I talked about an earlier lecture about community engagement where there was a story about Rick who led appropriate community engagement techniques and a story about Dick who led inappropriate community engagement techniques (kudos to the Equity Collective and illustrator Ping Zhu). As an example of an assignment submission, I modelled drawing a stick figure with a nametag “Dick” and drew a circle and a cross with it. I captioned it “Don’t be a Dick.” I drew other bits and bobs and posted this as an exemplar on my LMS. I was contacted later by the powers that be and told I was flagged for inappropriate content on my LMS. I was advised to delete the drawing. I get it, without context, it could be offensive. I redrew a stick figure with a nametag “Rick” and captioned it “Be a Rick.”

My learning lesson is: it should have always been a Rick. Where was my salutogenesis energy? Lightbulb moment and another lesson I can impart on my students: strengths-based approaches. A minor shift in perspective opens worlds of opportunities. If you are wondering, there were some amazing drawings, sticks and all. It was the ones who took the time to associate an image with a concept that did well. That’s a tale for another day. So take what you will from my initial faux paux, but truly, stick figures and Ricks unite! Cue Monty Python: “Always look on the bright side of life.”


Dr. Vivian Romero is Senior Lecturer in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. She is a participatory community education and engagement specialist who collided with human-centred design thinking. She focuses on innovation in public health, specifically, how we might improve the processes of engagement by and for the community.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivianromero/

University Profile: https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/profile/208335-vivian-romero


What’s on your nightstand? Reading glasses, a box of 64 crayons, ACMI flipbooks