Enabling

The University of Sydney has the following resources (two development units, and two supportive documents) to support leaders in:

Developing and Enhancing Learning and Teaching

Institute for Teaching and Learning
http://www.itl.usyd.edu.au/

Learning Solutions
http://www.usyd.edu.au/learningsolutions/

Good Practice in Learning and Teaching: Guidelines
http://www.usyd.edu.au/ab/policies/Good_Prac_T&L.pdf

This document is dated, but still relevant in containing a brief but comprehensive guide to good practice in the implementation and management of learning and teaching, based on the relevant University policies. It includes the following sections:

  • Recruitment, admission and reception of students
  • Valuing and supporting student diversity
  • Optimising student learning
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Academic planning and quality assurance
  • Staff development and support

Leadership Activities and Case Studies
http://www.itl.usyd.edu.au/programs/lead_teach/pdf/Leadership Manual.pdf
This document outlines the leadership features of university departments containing high quality teaching. It was completed in 2009, and includes case studies from around the world.


In enabling good teaching, some myths may need to be dispelled, and some initiatives taken.

Summary of some myths (and facts) about teaching

  • the tradition that the characteristics of effective teaching cannot be described and the related belief that there is no firm knowledge of the principles and practice of effective teaching in higher education (Fact: There is consistent, replicated, research-based evidence that certain teaching approaches and strategies are associated with higher quality student learning)
  • the belief that good teachers – unlike good researchers, it would seem – are born, not made (Fact: People change their teaching methods and their understanding of teaching, and acquire specific skills, through training and development)
  • the view that teaching is inevitably a less creative activity than research (Fact: Exemplary teachers describe their teaching as a continual process of learning and liken it to creative, curiosity-driven research)
  • the view that learning at university is actually enhanced when teaching is poor (and that students must therefore not be guided too carefully) (Facts: Poor teaching on average leads to poor learning; lack of clear structure and guidance is associated with lower quality learning outcomes and student dissatisfaction)
  • the fallacy that teaching first year undergraduates is easier than teaching more experienced students (Facts: It is always harder; students are more critical of the standards of first year teaching)
  • the belief that knowledge of subject matter is both a necessary and sufficient condition for good teaching (Fact: It is necessary but not sufficient)  [From Ramsden, 1998]

Summary of some initiatives in which academic leaders can improve the standard of teaching

  • Make demonstrated teaching skill a non-negotiable criterion for every academic appointment
  • Conduct an audit of the factors which staff feel are making good teaching difficult in your department, including conditions such as access to teaching rooms, equipment and class size
  • Show your personal commitment by asking your colleagues to help you improve your own teaching
  • Value teaching by publicising teaching accomplishments of the department and its staff (e.g. student evaluation results, quality assessment results) and hold celebrations of success
  • Expand moves towards instructional processes that demand greater teamwork among staff (such as flexible learning strategies using print-based teaching materials)
  • Show how innovative assessment methods can be used to give high quality feedback to larger numbers of students
  • Establish an internal email list on ‘effective techniques for better teaching and learning’
  • Admit your own mistakes, misgivings and disasters as a teacher
  • Establish a student liaison forum where students can meet staff over lunch to canvass ideas and creative options for better teaching and learning
  • Initiate simple ‘research’ procedures whereby staff can collect information about student learning (e.g. The ‘Three Most Important Things’ exercise: Gibbs et al., 1987)
  • Invite respected teachers from other departments or local universities to talk about how they teach, asking them to give special emphasis on the errors they have made and how they have learned to do better
  • Offer to be the next person in the department to have their teaching observed by peers
  • Talk to staff about times when you have really enjoyed your teaching, and ask them to share similar experiences with you and their colleagues
  • Form a group of staff who are interested in working through key texts on university teaching at lunchtime meetings
  • When giving feedback on a colleagues’ teaching, provide descriptive comments not evaluative ones
  • Provide incentive to staff to gain a qualification in university teaching
  • Attend national conferences and workshops on university teaching personally, and report back to your staff what you have learned and what you will do differently
  • Follow up on some recent graduates and ask them to comment at a staff meeting about how their course might have been improved
  • Do the same thing with some local employers
  • Set targets jointly with staff for improvements in, for example, progression rates and course experience scores, and monitor progress against these objectives
  • Talk about learning and the quality of graduates at every staff meeting
  • Establish a programme of teaching development for casual staff
  • Always say that problems in teaching are our problems and that successes are our successes

[From Ramsden, 1998]


Next: Scholarship of Teaching