Professor Michael Platow

ANU Distinguished Educator
Professor of Psychology
Associate Director (Science Education)
Research School of Psychology
ANU College of Health and Medicine

Michael Platow is a professor of psychology at the Australian National University. He has published widely on the social-psychology of leadership and social influence; justice, fairness, and trust; intergroup relations, including prejudice and discrimination; and education. He has received over one million dollars in research money from the Australian Research Council to study many of these processes. His edited books include Social Identity at Work: Developing Theory for Organizational Practice (2003) and Self and Social Identity in Educational Contexts (2017). His co-authored book, The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power (2011) was winner of the University of San Diego Outstanding Leadership Book Award 2012, and has been translated into two other languages. He has delivered invited, keynote plenary addresses to the Asian Association of Social Psychology, the International Congress of Coaching Psychology, and the International Conference on Social Identity and Sport. Overall, Professor Platow's research has been recognized by his election as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Professor Platow's teaching has also been recognised through his receipt of an Australian Commonwealth: (a) Office of Learning and Teaching Carrick Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2007) and (b) Department of Education and Training Australian Award for University Teaching - Award for Teaching Excellence (2016). In addition to his Ph.D. in psychology, Professor Platow holds a Masters of Higher Education. He has a quarter century of experience teaching at universities in Australia and overseas; and he has contributed to and taught the social psychology of leadership to the Australian Commonwealth's: (a) Attorney General's Course on Counter-Terrorism, (b) Defence College Course on Leadership, and (c) Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Course on Macroeconomic Management in Resource-Rich Countries.

Professor Platow currently holds leadership positions as an ANU Distinguished Educator and Associate Director (Science Education). He is past-president of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists, and is currently the president-elect of the International Society for Justice Research. He is also a former Associate Editor of the international journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.


Q: How do you plan to use your appointment as a Distinguished Educator?

I hope that my appointment as an ANU Distinguished Educator will provide me with opportunities to enable change among both fellow teaching academics and university administrators.  But change in human behaviour, as the psychological research tells us, comes best through education and persuasion, not coercion.  So, I see my role as one in which I remain an educator - but this time, not simply toward students enrolled at the ANU, but toward those employed by it to teach and administer.

Q: What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?

Motivating and inspiring students is what motivates and inspires me.  I know that each student brings to my classes his or her own level of intrinsic motivation.  However, my own discipline of psychology informs us that motivation is not simply an 'accessory' that individuals carry with them.  Instead, it is the outcome of a socially collaborative process that creates individual and social identities, as well as concomitant meanings, norms, values and goals.  Patiently waiting for the few motivated students is not sufficient. The onus is on me to create motivated and inspired students, and through this, create educated students.

Q: Tell us about an approach you have taken in the classroom of which you've been proud.

Development of students' social identities as psychological researchers is a key goal in my teaching - something that our own research has shown to be related to deep learning approaches within the discipline as well as students' intentions to continue their study of the discipline.  Toward this end, I have developed several activities to supplement traditional essays and research reports, including the completion of Research Ethics Applications, ARC Discovery Grant Applications, and the writing of Wikipedia entries. The Wikipedia assignment, in particular, has proven to be highly successful.  Students enjoy making a contribution to the world beyond their classroom; they know that other students and lay‐people throughout the world will read, and potentially rely upon, the words they write.  Perhaps most importantly, students will now receive continuous feedback as the world‐wide community comments on, and edits their contributions on topics such as trust, group cohesion and leadership.  This is a form of assessment that literally enables continuous independent learning and feedback, well after students have completed their degrees.

Q: If the VC asked you how you would change teaching and learning at ANU, what would you say?

There are two changes I would recommend, based on what psychologists understand about well-being.  First, ANU should do everything in its power to ensure that students learn on campus, and not closeted away alone and isolated in their homes. Research tells us is that psychological well-being is enhanced with strong social support - something that can be achieved with students actually interacting with each other and with academics in person.  Second, ANU should be engaging with students as students, and not as customers.  Research has also shown us that students who think of themselves as customers more than students actually have lower levels of psychological well-being compared to those who think of themselves more as students than customers.

Professor Michael Platow