Monday, 9 October 2017

Advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning

I recently obtained a PhD and the title of my thesis is:  Advancing scholarship of teaching and learning during professional development of new lecturers at higher education institutions. In this study, induction programmes and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) at higher education institutions in Australia, America, the UK, Sweden and South Africa were explored through a literature study. The research study focused on the introduction of SoTL in the professional development of new lecturers as preparation for the higher education institutional context. The thesis is available via the following link
My reading on the topic of induction programs indicates that the need for induction programs arises from the fact that most higher education institutions (HEIs) globally still do not require an educational or teaching qualification for appointment.
Induction programs are necessary to prepare newly appointed academic staff for the higher education teaching-learning context. It is imperative that consideration is given to timeous contact with newly appointed academic staff. Induction programs in South Africa have been criticised for occurring too late. Just yesterday I was reminded by a colleague that newly appointed academic staff had enquired why they didn't get to know about certain strategies, resources or required skills beforehand. It would have made their lives so much easier if they had been informed before assuming duty.

At Oxford University (United Kingdom) it is compulsory that new appointees spend a half day in training and in consultation within the school or faculty that they are appointed in to become au fait with the learning and teaching methodologies that are preferred in a disciplinary field or classroom context (large numbers of undergraduate students with a diversity of backgrounds, laboratories).

Certain skills may be required before entering a classroom i.e use of the institutional learning management system (LMS) or any other specific educational technology available in the lecture rooms.
The literature indicates that an institutional induction or orientation is standard practice at most HEIs. However, some appointtees may assume duty after this institutional induction and therefore have to wait until the next semester to attend an induction with the result that they may have lost out on essential information or skills. I came across an institution where an academic developer makes contactwith a new appointee as soon as they arrive during the semester so that the lack of attendance at an institutional induction is alleviated. An alternative to this is an online induction if an academic developer is not available for a face to face session.
 I therefore recommend that that knowledge and skills be considered that will prepare newly appointed academic staff for the context that they are entering. Besides educational technology skills, an overview can be given on relevant institutional policies (assessment, scholarship of teaching and learning, student feedback, study guides etc).
In the initial induction session therefore an overview should be given of what to be aware of and then after assuming duty professional knowledge and skills can be broadened and deepended over a series of sessions spread over the semester since it takes time for professional growth to take place. Induction programs generally suffer from an overload of information and become counter productive.

Schalk Fredericks
North-West University

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Induction to teaching programs: what are they good for?

Don Houston and Cassandra Hood, Flinders University

Flinders, like many other universities has provided an induction to teaching at university program for many years: ours is named the Flinders Foundations of University Teaching (FFOUT). The participant feedback had almost always been good, senior staff familiar with the program had been confident of its many benefits, and once upon a time it won an AAUT Citation. However, the program’s impact had not been formally evaluated.

To move past anecdotes of value to evidence, we undertook a formal evaluation in 2015. We surveyed and interviewed participants who had undertaken FFOUT between 2011 and 2014. The data confirmed our confidence in the value of the program. The participants generally agreed that the program has positive effects on their knowledge about university teaching, their practice and their conversations and thinking about their practice. The results reinforce other research indicating that such programmes do have beneficial effects on individual academics and that those benefits also extend to work groups and have value to the institution.

One very prominent pattern in the results was that staff who had participated in FFOUT more than two years prior to the evaluation had even more positive views about its value than more recent participants. We speculated that this group had had more time and opportunity to try things from the program to enhance their teaching –particularly in areas like topic and assessment design –than more recent participants caught up in doing teaching to survive!

We observed that the transfer of learning by academics to practice takes time and is mediated by many factors. Nevertheless, where it was seen that institutional and local departmental cultures value teaching, programs such as FFOUT, provide a useful strategy for quality enhancement in higher education.
Of particular note was that a critical mass of past FFOUT participants in a workgroup was needed to positively influence both attitude to teaching and practice. FFOUT participation allowed respondents to contribute to existing conversations around teaching as well as to initiate them, in settings where teaching is valued. Unsurprisingly, local cultural factors and practices, as well as academic leadership impacts how teaching is viewed and supported. Beyond influence on individuals practice, participation adds to that critical mass who appreciate and work toward improving teaching.

Given the impact of academic leadership on departmental culture, it will be interesting to see how the current restructure of our university’s academic groupings to colleges from faculties impacts on the culture of learning and teaching within various workgroups. With many educational leadership positions recently filled, we hope that those staff committed to teaching maintain and are supported in their focus on quality teaching that FFOUT encourages and supports.

The key take away messages from our work are: programs like this do have benefits to participants and to the wider institution; those benefits can be optimised where participants receive support from colleagues and managers in their day to day workplaces; and the full benefits need time to accrue.Two publications from the research so far are:

Our HERDSA 2016 conference paper:

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

MOOC pilot underway

Dear Colleagues

The pilot of our Fellowship MOOC 'Contemporary approaches to university teaching' is well and truly underway with just under 200 colleagues enrolled. I had hoped that perhaps we'd enrol 100 colleagues in the MOOC and am therefore overwhelmed by the response.

Participant feedback on the MOOC has been extremely positive and we have gleaned very useful information from the participants which will help us when we revise the MOOC in time for launching early in 2018.

As well as the participants enrolled in the MOOC, approximately 30 colleagues nationally and internationally have requested guest access to review the MOOC. Again, their responses have been overwhelmingly positive with several universities indicating that they want to use the MOOC for their staff teaching professional development when we launch next year.

Teaching induction research
In the next few weeks the blog will host posts from colleagues who have recently had their teaching induction research published - Don Houston and Cassandra Hood from Flinders University Australia, and Schalk Fredericks from North-West University South Africa. Also expect to see a post from Denise Chalmers and Lynne Hunt on their recent publication on evaluating teaching.

If you wish to contribute to the blog about your teaching induction program, please do contact me at



Sunday, 25 June 2017

Pilot of MOOC

Dear colleagues

This week we begin the enrollment of the 80 plus new teaching staff who have expressed interest in enrolling in our pilot MOOC Contemporary approaches to university teaching.

The last few months have seen Linden, Josh, David and myself compiling, editing, loading and formatting the modules into the MOOC platform. Each module should take participants approximately 2 hours to complete.

Each module has been reviewed by content experts and the MOOC itself has been reviewed by over a dozen colleagues.

If you are interested in seeing the pilot MOOC, please contact Linden Clarke ( who can enrol you as a guest.

We will be back in August to update you on the pilot. We will also begin to load posts by colleagues who have written articles/theses on teaching induction and related areas.



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Teaching Today’s Diverse Learners module

The Teaching Today’s Diverse Learners module that Teresa De Fazio and I have been working on is aimed at supporting participants to think more deeply about the diverse student cohorts entering higher education and the richness this offers to the learning and teaching experience.

The module is designed to be taken after completion of the Learning and Teaching Theories and Principles and Collaborative Learning: Profiting from Peer Power modules and is intended to build on what participants learned in those modules. Given the breadth of ideas related to diversity we encourage participants to think about what diversity looks like in their teaching contexts, the support for both staff members and students that is available within their institutions and most importantly how they work with diversity so that students feel part of a more inclusive, motivated and inspired learning culture. The module involves the following sections:

  1. Introductory Activity: Who are we referring to when we consider diversity?
  2. Reflection: Acknowledgement of country
  3. Defining diversity
  4. Who are we actually talking about when we consider diversity in higher education?
  5. Responding through practical strategies
  6. Determining the role of the university and its staff
  7. Final reflection, review and next steps


Each one comprises self-paced activities including videos; readings and reflection exercises. Is there anything missing from the list? We realise it may be difficult to respond as you cannot see what each area includes, but we are trying to determine if there is anything more general that we may be missing, bearing in mind that the idea of this module is to help staff think about how to best support students to learn, it is not about specifically addressing a particular cohort in relation to their diverse needs but thinking about how to be inclusive so all students regardless of their background feel they can participate and learn.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Ann  Luzeckyj and Teresa de Fazio

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

To quiz or not to quiz?

Dear All

Colleagues from 19 Australian universities are contributing to the development of the ‘Contemporary Australian Teaching Practices’ MOOC which we will pilot in semester 2, 2017. As the MOOC is designed specifically for university staff who are new to teaching, we have designed it to introduce basic concepts such as how to provide constructive feedback or teach a diversity of students.  Ideally I would like to see our new teaching colleagues spend about two hours a week across a semester, exploring a different topic every week.

However, it is possible that some colleagues who have been teaching previously will access the MOOC. While I want to encourage people to dip into all of the 11 modules, people will of course, pick and choose what is of value to them: just in time, just for me.

I wonder if it would be useful therefore to have say one multiple choice question from each module in a preliminary ‘self assessment’ quiz, which colleagues could use to guide their choices.

What do you think? To quiz or not to quiz???



Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Quality Assurance and our responsibilities: a module under development

Julie Fleming and Kogi Nadioo are developing the module on 'Quality Assurance and our responsibilities ­ helping guide your career development’. Our introduction should provide you with enough information to help demonstrate where we are taking the module. We’d be happy for your feedback.

In this module you will gain an understanding of the overarching learning and teaching frameworks that assure the quality of Australia¹s higher education providers, including your institution. We start by examining the overarching regulatory body TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), whose role is to safeguard the interests of students as well as to accredit our courses and units. From January 2017, a new regulatory framework applies to all registered providers of higher education in Australia. The framework is known as the Higher Education Standards Framework and it describes a range of specifically developed threshold standards all institutions must meet.

Our responsibility as educators is to understand these requirements, ensuring compliance. A second important framework governing our institutions is the AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework). This framework is the national policy for determining Australian qualifications in education.

Moving on from these overarching regulatory frameworks, we will then examine your institution¹s related policies and procedures that help assure and enhance the quality of course learning and teaching. This will include understanding your role as an educator and the impact of, for example, policies and guidelines relating to academic integrity and your institution¹s code of conduct.
Another important consideration is collecting and examining different datasets to inform the assurance of those standards. These include internal unit and teaching evaluations and external data including Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT).

Our aim is that you are continually reflecting on the impact of your academic/professional role through quality enhancement and alignment with internal and external frameworks supporting the quality of learning and teaching. Upon completion of this module, you will develop a personal development plan, based on your choice of a professional development standards framework, that will support you in completing your probation requirements and/or set you up to progress in your higher education career.

Julie and Kogi

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Scholarly teaching and scholarship of teaching: continually improving your teaching

Dear All

We are developing the module on scholarly teaching and sotl. This module is expected to provide 2 hours of engagement by the participants. So the module is a practical introduction to the concepts and at the end, we will direct people who want to engage further, to resources/literature.

The ‘table of contents’ for the module is given below. What we want to do in the module is introduce new teaching staff to the difference between being a scholarly teacher and engaging in the scholarship of teaching. We’ll ask staff to: view a video clip of international colleagues discussing their definitions of SoTL; skim a chapter on the benefits of SoTL; and find a teaching and learning journal in their discipline.

Then we plan to introduce the different types of evaluation strategies that can be used to improve teaching and collect evidence to improve student learning and for probation, promotion, teaching awards. This work will be based on the 2009 Light, Cox and Caulkin evaluation chapter in their book “Learning and teaching in higher education”. Strategies include things like peer review, buzz groups, questionnaires, reflective triads, and focus groups. In terms of activities, we will ask participants to try one of the strategies.

As we are in the process of finalising our module, we would appreciate your thoughts on the current approach to the module and our questions below.

  1. Can you suggest great resources that we simply must include?
  2. Are there particular (short) activities that we might consider?
  3. Any other feedback?

Module table of contents

Welcome video (introduction to the module)

Context and definitions

Teaching and learning scholars

Why take a scholarly teaching approach?

Concerns about SoTL (the pros and cons of engaging in L&T research)

Where do I start?

Using evaluation to improve your students’ learning

  • Buzz groups
  • Peer review of teaching
  • Questionnaires
  • Etc

Where do I get help from/go from here?

Using SoTL and scholarly teaching to progress your career



Kym Fraser, Swinburne University of Technology

Bernie Fisher, Australian Catholic University

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Learning and Teaching Theories – a module under development

We have undertaken to develop the module on learning and teaching theories for the Induction program.

One of the reasons for our interest in this particular topic was that both of us have had extensive experience in assisting applicants for Learning and Teaching grants and awards, and in preparing and mentoring staff for Higher Education Academy Fellowships. In both these mentoring roles, we have found that most applicants have little knowledge of the higher education literature, and the long history of educational research, principles of teaching, and how students learn. Nor can staff readily call on theory to support their learning and teaching approaches and practices. At best, there may be a single reference in applications to Biggs and Tang (which is of course, a standard text in higher education), or a brief reference to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, as an argument for ‘social learning’.

As teaching academics, we need to be ‘double professionals’ who know about not only the seminal work in our discipline field, but also how that discipline is best taught. There are specialist journals in teaching particular disciplines and professions, and the module on Scholarly Teaching directs your attention to such journals, but there is a rich literature in learning and teaching in general, and if you are to think reflectively and deeply about your practices for teaching students effectively, you should have some knowledge of this literature, and the significant theories that shape or have shaped our current pedagogies. We would have liked to have included a lot more in our module but it was not feasible given the limited amount of time participants will have to spend on each module.

Our module so far consists of some learning activities, video sections, some links to several short documents, and an MCQ, to ‘test’ that you have a very basic knowledge of the education theorists. It also, as a stretch activity, includes making a voki, to encourage participants to use a free app that may open up a world of new technologies that can be used to engage students in this digital world.  The voki activity is at the icebreaker level. It starts to get participants thinking about articulating their first thoughts about their philosophies of teaching. Participants will need to continue to grapple with the development of their teaching philosophies and may need some other form of professional development, like mentoring to fully develop written artefacts.

We would welcome any comments you have for the scope of the module, and any resources we might consider essential.
Sue Bolt and Yoni Ryan

Monday, 6 March 2017

Planning for Learning – a module in development!

One of the first modules that participants in our teaching induction MOOC can choose to work through is the 'Planning for Learning' module. Below Sally and Rosie talk about the approach that they are taking in the module and ask for any thoughts, resources, activities that they might find useful in their module. Each module aims to engage participants for no more than two hours, however the module can provide extension resources for those participants who want to explore the topic further.
There are no surprises in the statement that the process of developing this module mirrors the process of planning for learning per se!   It was tempting to submit the many iterations of the module as a demonstration of the iterative process that often reflects the planning process.  Having gone through the process we have settled on the following key elements around which to focus the module.  We begin with the context as that provides an overall framework for learning. In the context we briefly consider who are the students, where will the learning occur, what the purpose of the learning is and what resources are available. The focus then shifts to the outcomes for the learning - so what are the learning outcomes for the material being taught and how are these outcomes to be assessed?  Our module then asks the question ‘How does learning happen?’ by which we introduce learning strategies by way of learning tasks as the method for the learning to occur.   The emphasis here is to move the participant from telling their student all there is to know about their unit to have their students actively involved in developing the knowledge and skills required of the unit. This section will also incorporate timing and lesson structure. The fourth section centres on utilising checking strategies to gauge the learning progress within their sessions.  The participants will be asked to utilise a graphic organiser to reflect on these aspects of planning as it relates to their institution and the teaching of their discipline. Additional resources will be linked to the module eg lesson plan templates, learning strategies and learning tasks and weblinks for further support and ideas.

We are not quite finished with our module as yet so are happy to have any questions, thoughts or ideas sent our way for further consideration! 

Rosie Greenfield and Sally Gauci - Victoria University