Following a successful pilot project, the University of Newcastle is offering all teaching staff a self-guided professional development programme to enhance their teaching practice, called ‘Quality Teaching in Higher Education’.

The Quality Teaching Model, developed by education academics at the university, has been used extensively in NSW government schools, with robust evidence demonstrating improvement in quality of teaching, teacher morale, and student learning.

In the higher education sector, teaching quality has arguably taken a backseat to research output as a measure of “success”. Despite all the talk of performance-based models of funding for universities, how to support university staff to enhance teaching quality has received relatively little attention from the current federal government.

In the pilot project at UON, 26 academics – from sessional to tenured professor level across the disciplines of nursing and midwifery, psychology, creative industries, education, architecture and built environment, medicine and public health, and law – engaged with the Quality Teaching Model as part of a series of workshops and peer observation sessions.

Because many academics have little, or no, formal training in teaching, the Model was seen as providing a critical foundation for professional development in education theory, pedagogy, planning, course and assessment design, and collaboration with colleagues.

Prior to engaging with the Model, participants said they were “not qualified teachers”, were “learning in silos”, currently “winging it’ and “flying by the seat of [their] pants.” They appreciated the chance to be “a bit more reflective” and think about a lesson’s “intent and purpose.” They saw benefits for “clear and consistent” delivery of courses taught by multiple staff, and the opportunity to build “consistency of learning” across a university programme and within their chool.

Challenges identified were “under-staffing, people’s busyness, casualisation (and) disengagement, difficulty implementing School-wide change, and the focus on research because ‘that’s often what’s rewarded within the institution (and) within the sector’.”

Importantly, pilot participants believed that this form of professional development would ultimately improve students’ learning experiences. With enrichment of the student experience and the creation of work-ready graduates being current aims of Australian higher education, other universities would do well to follow Uni Newcastle’s lead in affording teaching staff the opportunity to engage in meaningful professional learning focused on teaching and learning.

Dr Sally Patfield, Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, School of Education, College of Human and Social Futures, University of Newcastle [email protected] @SallyPatfield

Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, School of Education, College of Human and Social Futures, University of Newcastle [email protected]  @Jennygore4


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education