Teaching Portfolio

University Lecturing & Teaching

Dr Kirstin Mills delivering a lecture at Macquarie University

Dr Kirstin Mills is Director of the Master of Research and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. In this role she convenes the Faculty’s unique Master of Research (MRes) and Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) program, as well as designing and teaching core research and communication units within it. As well as training students in the essential research, critical and communication skills required for postgraduate research, Kirstin’s central aim is to deepen her students’ passion and excitement for research itself and the fascinating possibilities it can open up for new and dynamic ways of thinking about the world and ourselves. This aim, which transcends disciplinary boundaries to bring together students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds, is one of the foundational principles central to all of Kirstin’s teaching.

Teaching Ethos:

Kirstin is passionate about teaching the joys, wonder, and excitement, and the intellectual, emotional and practical value of research, critical thinking and communication (with a particular passion for reading and studying literature and its intersection with historical and cultural contexts, which her research specialises in). She firmly believes that studying the arts and humanities through both textual analysis and broader historical, contextual research, is crucial for developing an intelligent, engaged, and resistant outlook in an increasingly media-dominated world. In literature, history and the arts especially, she believes, there is something for everyone, and quite often more than they would expect.

Kirstin’s teaching is guided by two overarching principles that she believes underpin research and knowledge production and sharing: curiosity and the power of storytelling.
Through her dynamic and engaged teaching, Kirstin aims to awaken a passion in her students for curiosity: for asking questions, seeking answers and opening up new learning pathways. For Kirstin, fostering curiosity is the key to igniting passion and drive in research and learning, while also considering alternative perspectives, and questioning outcomes. In addition, she argues, to translate research and learning into successful communication, and indeed to support the thinking and research process itself, curiosity must also be intertwined with storytelling. In this aim, she draws on her literary and creative expertise to instill in students an awareness, appreciation and working practice of storytelling for thinking, research and communication. She helps students understand and develop storytelling as a means of critical reflection on their ideas and their own development as researchers, effective research communication and engagement, and a way to think productively about their own cumulative learning and research journeys.

Kirstin has extensive teaching experience across several universities in Sydney, Australia.
Prior to her current role as Director of the Master of Research (MRes) in Macquarie University’s Faculty of Arts, Kirstin taught as a sessional lecturer and tutor in the Department of English at Macquarie University (2009-1019), and as a Lecturer-in-Charge for the School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University, North Sydney (2019). In both of these roles, among her favourite subjects to teach were the foundational ‘Approaches to English Literature’ (MQU) and ‘Worlds of Fiction’ (ACU) units. Here she took pride in awakening and building the excitement and deepening engagement of students as they delved further into the rewards and joys of studying English Literature, and particularly in finding its relevance to their own lives and contexts, forging new ways of thinking critically and creatively about our world. Many of her students expressed their personal connection to and appreciation of these units, and were inspired to pursue further literature units as a result. Kirstin also enjoys the process of working closely and individually with students to improve their research and writing skills, and she has received many commendations from students for the quality and extent of her individually tailored writing advice.

Kirstin also feels strongly about harnessing the powers of digital technology to create engaging, dynamic and increasingly accessible learning experiences for her students. She has extensive experience with both face to face and online approaches to learning and teaching. In both formats she has received praise from students along with several award nominations and commendations from the University’s Academic Senate for her commitment to student satisfaction and teaching excellence.

Teaching Experience:

2020-present: Director of the Master of Research and Senior Lecturer (formerly Lecturer) in the Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

2019: Sessional Lecturer-in-Charge in the National School of Arts, Australian Catholic University, North Sydney Campus, Australia

2009 – 2019: Sessional Lecturer, Convenor and Tutor in the Department of English, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia (On-Campus Teaching and Online Teaching via Open Universities Australia [OUA])

Courses Taught:

Postgraduate Units:

FOAR7001: Research Communications (MRes/BPhil, MQU)
FOAR7002: Research Frontiers (MRes/BPhil, MQU)
FOAR7003: Digital Literacies for Researchers (MRes/BPhil, MQU)
FOAR7000: Research Paradigms (MRes/BPhil, MQU) [co-convened]
FOAR8990: Research Frontiers II (MRes Year 2 Program, MQU)
LIT854: Narrative Theory and Method (Master of Arts in English, MQU)

Undergraduate Units:

ENGL303: Narrative and the Novel (MQU)
ENGL314: Victorian Literature (MQU)
ENGL206: Gothic Visions: From Sublime to Suburban Gothic (MQU)
ENGL209: Children’s Literature (MQU)
ENGL203: Contemporary Literature (MQU)
ENGL205: Australian Literature (MQU)
ENGL108: Politics and Literature (MQU)
ENGL120: Approaches to English Literature (MQU)
ENGL140: Children’s Literature: Worlds of Fiction (ACU)

What Students Say:

Kirstin has received several commendations from Macquarie University’s Academic Senate for excellence in teaching, and for the high rate of student satisfaction and retention in her courses, as well as several OUA Teaching Award nominations. These achievements are reflected in the high volume of positive testimonials offered by the students themselves, a few of which are shown below:

  • Kirstin’s feedback on essays was awesome and thorough. My marks increased significantly as a result of the excellent feedback.
    Student of 'Approaches to English Literature', Macquarie University
  • "Kirstin, thank you for all your help and support on this unit. Your enthusiasm for this subject is infectious, and your insights and input on our assignments and weekly forums have been invaluable."
    Student of Children's Literature, Macquarie University
  • "Thank you so much for your support and help this study period.  You would have to be the most attentive and thoughtful tutor I have had the pleasure to meet!"
    Student of Children's Literature, Macquarie University
  • "Thank you for your kind comments on my essay, and especially for the safe and supportive space you have provided in this subject - it has allowed me to develop the courage to have a voice instead of being terrified of sharing my words with others, which is a great gift that I am very grateful for."
    Student of Children's Literature, Macquarie University
  • "Thanks again for a fantastic learning experience, I have really enjoyed this unit."
    Student of 'Gothic Visions', Macquarie University
  • "Thank you for all your advice and comments on my previous assignment. They really helped me develop my ideas and know where to improve. It was so nice to see an improvement and know that my hard work paid off."
    Student of Politics and Literature, Macquarie University
  • [The highlight of my MRes/BPhil year was:] "Kirstin Mills. She's smart, relatable, intelligent and kind."
    Master of Research Student, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University
  • "Kirstin was always available to give help whenever I needed it. The assignment feedback was extremely thorough and really really helpful but Kirstin was still willing to go the extra mile on top of the extensive feedback and give me some more advice where I needed it. She also made class and assignments feel very stress free, the discussions were always really interesting but it felt easy to engage with the discussion. Everything we learnt felt like we were learning prep for the future, it really helped give an idea about what ethical issues or digital humanities opportunities we should look out for in future."
    Student of Digital Literacies (MRes), Macquarie University
  • "Kirstin is a remarkable tutor and was very helpful in shaping the way I think about my research, not just as a disciplinary concept, but an interdisciplinary one as well."
    Student of Research Communications (MRes), Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University
  • "I really loved this unit, it's definitely been my favourite unit that I've done in this degree and probably ever. I felt so comfortable and relaxed in class and it made sharing my responses to pause and write prompts easy, there was no concern about awkwardness or judgement. Every lecture and tutorial felt like I was learning something really useful and really good for next year and for academia in future [...] I would leave feeling so relaxed and calm about everything that I had to do. Kirstin was also just so thorough with all the lecture content, everything was so detailed and so useful and the assessment feedback [...] was so thorough, it covered far more areas I could have improved on than previous classes have. Kirstin was also completely willing to spend as much time as she needed with us if we needed extra feedback, help or just a chat, she went completely above and beyond what she needed to do [...]. Kirstin also spent enough time helping me sort out assignments that I was actually able to come up with a thesis idea in those meetings."
    Student of Research Communications (MRes), Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University
  • "Thank you so much Kirstin for all of your help and feedback throughout the course. I haven't encountered many tutors who are as contactable and supportive as you are. I have truly enjoyed the unit, and will forever read a text in a very different manner."
    Student of 'Approaches to English Literature', Macquarie University
  • Kirstin was positive and polite, helpful, encouraging, enthusiastic and motivating, gave helpful feedback on essays, and adjusted tutorial activities to suit how different students best learn.”
    Student of 'Approaches to English Literature', Macquarie University