The Victoria Institute

Professional development program to embed inclusive and explicit teaching practices in higher education first year units

While some university academics are content experts in their respective fields, many Australian academics have not engaged in formal teaching training or attend regular professional learning to improve their teaching skills. Supporting and improving the teaching skills of staff at universities plays a vital role in delivering a more engaging student experience and improving student learning. This project explored how universities might improve the quality of higher education teaching by providing better professional learning opportunities for higher education educators.

A customised version of an established American higher education professional learning program – Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) for Higher Education was trialled to explore whether it could be adapted for Australia to stimulate more engaging teaching, particularly in first year foundation units.

The AVID for Higher Education collaborative, inquiry-based, immersion model of professional learning was very positively received. It stimulated more engaged teaching by providing regular professional learning sessions combining both generic skills and discipline-specific material. Findings from this project identified the need for universities to address both teaching and institutional factors to improve the quality of teaching. These are detailed in the project report.

Key findings

  • No single professional learning activity can provide a short cut to the years required to master the complex art of becoming and remaining an effective, accomplished teacher.
  • Programs need to be engaging and model effective teaching practices, be collaborative, scaffolded, practical, sustained, supported and ongoing; one-off sessions do not work.
  • Paying sessional staff to attend professional learning programs appears to provide a return on investment that improves the quality and engagement in higher education. teaching, but payment alone is not sufficient to overcome institutional factors that restrict which staff are able to attend and invest in professional learning opportunities.
  • Video exemplars of effective higher education teaching should include clear standards and encourage supportive peer observation to raise the quality of teaching.

Project outputs

  • The project report can be found on our publications page.
  • A new website with video exemplars of the AVID for Higher Education explicit teaching practices will be available soon.

Project team

  • Claire Brown
  • Professor Roger Slee
  • Associate Professor Katie Hughes
  • Dr Kathy Tangalakis
  • Associate Professor Kerry Dickson
  • Ms Monika Taylor
  • Dr Brian Zammit 
  • Associate Professor Mark McMahon 

Project partners

Funding organisation

Support for the production of this report has been provided by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.

Contact us

Claire Brown 
Project Leader

Phone: +61 3 9919 4604
Emailclaire.brown@vu.edu.au.