The Australian Learning and Teaching Council has launched two new projects looking at university professional development programs and how they are evaluated.


The projects will examine a variety of different teaching preparation programs (TPPs) with the aim of developing tools to measure the effectiveness of such programs, and ultimately, to assess the ongoing impact of TPPs on student learning outcomes.


Project leader Winthrop Professor Denise Chalmers said that with increased pressure for accountability coming from both within institutions, and externally from the Australian government, there is a real need to ensure that the substantial investments being made are being effectively directed.


As part of this effort Professor Chalmers and her team at the University of Western Australia (UWA), Edith Cowan and Curtin universities have been conducting an audit of the TPPs available at Australia’s 39 universities.


“Rather than focus on one type of program the project is seeking to identify the intended outcomes of all of the offerings available and then to develop an evaluation framework for thinking about the impact of these based on the intended outcomes,” says Professor Chalmers.


This framework will be critiqued, trialled and disseminated through the Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development network at several points throughout the project.


The need for evidence-based assessment of professional development activities in teaching and learning is something that is also recognised by Monash University’s Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, project leader of the other ALTC strategic priority project funded in this area.


Particularly interested in the changing dynamics of the university environment, Professor Hughes-Warrington and her team will explore professional development and career recognition in the context of an increasingly diverse university workforce.


“A number of universities have begun to introduce ‘education focused’ or ‘teaching specialist’ roles”, she said.


“We’re particularly interested in this group and how they are able to support and underpin their claims for promotion and career development. We see these people as being real leaders in education.”


Professor Hughes-Warrington’s project team, which draws on the combined strengths of Monash, Melbourne and Griffith universities, will also determine if professional development programs and teaching quality measurement instruments are adequately catering for the diversity of teachers now working in Australia’s universities.


“There really is a whole range of people that are teaching across a whole range of employment categories at modern universities: clinical educators, lab demonstrators, Indigenous student support tutors, library staff (who help students with literacy skills)... One thing that fascinates us is: Is there adequate professional development provision for each of these groups? And also, related to this, what kinds of evidence of teaching are these groups able to draw upon to support claims for promotion and for future career development?”


Each project will receive more than $200,000 funding over two years.


More information is at