Connected Conversations | Clinton Kempster

Embracing the move to online teaching and relishing the new opportunities that comes with it, is Adelaide Dental School lecturer, Clinton Kempster. We learnt a lot from Clinton about e-learning, the importance of regular check-ins and the strength of our University community in our latest edition of Connected Conversations.

Clinton Kempster

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Clinton. I’m forty-two years old, married to the most magnificent wife of nearly eighteen years and have three children aged thirteen, eleven and eight. The pooch in my arms is little Sadie – a two year old black and white Cavoodle with one of the most sociable personalities I’ve ever known in a dog. I was born in Adelaide and continue to live and raise our family here in the beautiful suburb of West Beach. The house you see here has been my labour of love for the past ten years. It was very run down when we purchased it. It’s now almost completely renovated and is a great source of pride for me. Despite some significant challenges growing up, I know I’ve had a fairly privileged life. The University of Adelaide has had a lot to do with that! As an alumni of the University, I was proud to have been the first in my family to achieve a higher education qualification. The University led me toward a successful career as a dental therapist with the South Australian Dental Service for fifteen years (I was one of the first practicing male dental therapists in Australia) and now as a Lecturer currently in the Adelaide Dental School. Through the University I have met and continue to meet some pretty amazing people: those with brilliant minds, big hearts and the kind of zest for knowledge and growth that truly inspires. I’m fortunate to be working with many of the same mentors that supported me through my own original undergraduate training and have continued to mentor me through post-graduate qualification and as a (hopefully!) contemporary education professional.

Can you tell us a little more about your current role at the University?

I’ve been a Lecturer for the Adelaide Dental School since 2007 and currently serve as one of two Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Fair Treatment Contact Officers (FTCO) and Deputy to the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Director of Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. I identify best as a social scientist, curious about people and culture. My research interests stretch across workforce utilisation, to student performance, leadership, organisational culture and educational innovation. In some respects, not having a dentistry discipline specific research interest has been problematic. But being curious about a range of things has helped me in many other ways – in particular it has supported my teaching and mentoring of students clinically, which has been recognised by my students, peers and industry. It has helped my own students to better understand themselves, their own biases, the social determinants of health behaviours and outcomes as well as the opportunities that present for non-clinical health management and support.

How have you adapted to teaching online and working remotely?

You would have to ask my students! Personally, it’s been great for me and I have had support from the Head of School and program coordinator. The theoretical aspects of my teaching lend themselves nicely to online or remote working. I have always followed e-learning trends and being ‘plugged in’ to the online learning space. Teaching and learning online is such an interesting concept but can be overwhelming at the same time. There are so many amazing tools that educators can now use; it has become difficult to know what to commit to in terms of expertise. And the problem with undertaking that commitment is that new apps or technology can quickly make what you’ve been mastering for some time quickly become completely redundant. That’s why our Learning Enhancement & Innovation (LEI) team are so important. They have been outstanding, in my experience, as we’ve transitioned over into this new teaching and learning design model. Big props to the LEI team!

What measures or changes have you implemented with social distancing restrictions, that you think others could benefit from?

The one thing that comes to mind is the frequency of actually checking in on people has increased. Once upon a time, I would just check in on students – probably only from the perspective of learning. But now, it has become obvious how important it is to check on colleagues, students, friends and family more regularly than perhaps I did even when we were face-to-face. And so, the pastoral care aspect of our job seems to have intensified over this pandemic period.

What innovation have you seen that’s really impressive?

Many staff doing some really neat things with online learning tools. Teachers and coordinators taking the time to improve the professional appearance of their courses. New ways of engaging and activating student participation in their learning (online learning can at times be quite passive). Professional staff whom have adapted to working from home and have been doing so with the same level of rapid contact and professionalism. And leadership who have been empathetic to the change in staff needs, potential stress levels and supportive of new approaches to working flexibly.

What do you hope will be one of the enduring changes to University life in the future?

I hope that out of this pandemic we have developed a new appreciation of one another as a scholarly community. We have had some incredibly turbulent times of late. It is easy to become change weary. But we are stronger together. I truly believe that when we celebrate and leverage the diversity among our people, the uniqueness of our discoveries, our personal and professional triumphs and most importantly, the achievements of our students, we will certainly come to the realisation of just how strong an organisation we can be across the higher education sector here in Australia – today and tomorrow. We need to continue to create and support an environment where everyone can thrive.

Quick fire questions!


Getting dressed for work or staying in pj’s?

Combo of both – it has depended on the day!

Needing colleagues to bounce ideas off of or loving the quiet to get into  the zone?

Again, a bit of both. Colleagues have been easily accessible. But I’ve loved the comfort and quiet of home (fortunate to have children back at school)

Uber Eats or home cooked meals?

Definitely home cooked. Blah to soggy hamburger buns and cold Thai green curry.

Baking your own sourdough or eating what’s left in the freezer?

Love sourdough but for the sake of baking it’s pretty easy to find a shop bought alternative. A big tip… Rocco’s Pizza on Findon Road does the best sourdough pizza in Adelaide, hands down!

Scheduled vs unscheduled?

Scheduled but I like the buzz of unscheduled too.

Reading or binge-watching Netflix?

Was never really a TV watcher. More of a movie buff. But have found some recent series that have really locked me in.

Good weather or bad weather makes it easier working from home?

I’m happy either way. I’m more of a fair weather – warmer climate type person in general – everything’s more colourful, brighter, out there together.

Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

The paranoia in the supermarket aisles.

Donald Trump press briefings on social media – although these were good for sheer morbid astonishment.

The impact on important gatherings e.g. our students’ graduations, weddings, family funerals etc. These are such significant moments in people’s lives, so it is hard to see people not have these occasions marked with the usual ceremony.  

And the three things you won’t forget…

The renewed appreciation for our home which we work so hard to afford, improve and maintain.

The fact that we lived through such an unbelievable time in our lives.

Petrol prices!!! Wow… if only that could go on.

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