Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

As a tertiary educator you are responsible for supporting students' learning by creating intellectually stimulating, engaging, safe and responsive learning experiences, using all modes of delivery, and for doing so in a way that advances the goals of your institution, in accord with your university's policies and legislation. To do this effectively, you will need to combine an advanced knowledge of learning theories with skills of critical reflection and reasoning, and to draw on the scholarship available on teaching in higher education.

Therefore, this unit aims to help you develop your teaching practice informed by learning theory, scholarship, the needs and circumstances of your students, institutional mission and policies, and other governance requirements in the higher education sector.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate a specialised and coherent body of knowledge of learning theories and principles in higher education. (GA5) 

LO2 - Develop and apply strategies for improving teaching practice using analysis of, evaluation of, and critical reflection on the relationship between teaching and student learning. (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8) 

LO3 - Design engaging teaching, learning and assessment experiences (based on literature on learning theories and principles in higher education) for their students that are ethical and Mission-based and responsive to student diversity (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA6) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

  • theoretical and ethical perspectives on adult learning and tertiary teaching  
  • diverse learning needs of students and the nature of learning  
  • different conceptions of knowledge (including Indigenous Knowings) 
  • aligning learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment  
  • preparing students for work and life 
  • reflecting on and reviewing teaching practice including, for example, peer observations, video, team teaching, problem-based / inquiry-based learning etc. 
  • working with university policies and procedures and strategic priorities for learning and teaching 
  • applying the scholarship of teaching and learning 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Participants of this unit (and course) are predominantly academics whose geographical location is widespread. These participants are adults, all of whom are qualified with at least one tertiary degree. Participants have expertise that collectively spans the full range of disciplines taught by a university. Their experience in tertiary teaching is diverse. Notwithstanding that some participants have decades of experience as tertiary teachers resulting in considerable ‘practice wisdom’, few of the participants bring formal disciplinary expertise in higher education with a scholarly base. This unit needs to respect the range of experience represented in this cohort and respond in a manner that assists all participants to progressively develop their teaching practice informed by learning theory, scholarship, the needs and circumstances of their students, institutional mission and policies, and other governance requirements in the higher education sector. 


To achieve this, the unit is delivered using an online mode of delivery. This capitalizes on the maturity and capability of the participants, but also provides equitable access to a full provision of learning experiences within which a community of scholars can be developed.  


The unit is structured as a progressive, constructive, developmental narrative that supports students’ learning through a sequence of three overlapping learning stages. In each stage, the nature of the learning and the nature of the teaching supports provided are different but complementary. Each stage builds on the next so that learning from one acts as necessary foundation for the next.  


Teaching approaches need to be selected and sequenced in ways that support the nature of learning at each stage.  


  1. The first stage is characterized as acquiring declarative knowledge. Teaching supports are basic readings and a glossary of terms together with learning and assessment activities that encourage participants to relate these to their views about teaching. 
  2. The second stage involves assimilating this knowledge in the form of concepts, principles and theories, More advanced readings, drawing on a broader base of educational theory, institutional context and policy are coupled with learning activities that encourage a greater application of self-reflection in which participants’ teaching practices are critiqued with reference to the theories they are assimilating. 
  3. The third stage requires students to apply this conceptual knowledge into the development of skills, that is, functioning knowledge. Learning activity here involves the application of conceptual understanding to the development and justification of improved teaching practices. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy in this unit needs to consist of a developmental sequence of interconnected tasks that supports the educational purpose of each of the three stages described above and progressively assesses the learning outcomes which are in the same constructive developmental sequence.  

The first task needs to comprise an activity that emphasizes the acquisition of declarative content that relates a participant’s epistemological beliefs to the teaching practices they use. This task relates primarily to learning outcome 1.  

The second assessment task needs to extend the thinking from the first task to an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches and teaching strategies of the participants, using their developing conceptual understanding of the principles and theories contained within the scholarly educational literature. This task relates mostly to the achievement of learning outcome number 2, but builds on learning outcome 1, and assesses both.  

Finally, the third task needs to extend the analysis of teaching practices undertaken in the second task in a way that allows students to apply their understanding of the inter-relationships between concepts, principles and theories in the educational literature to an improvement of teaching practices. This task will relate mostly to learning outcome 3, but depends on and extends learning outcomes 1 and 2, and assesses all three learning outcomes.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 

The kind of assessment task needed is one in which students can demonstrate knowledge of educational learning theory as it applies to adult learners in a tertiary context. This needs to be related to an awareness of their own epistemological beliefs so that the task can act as a scaffold toward the second task.  


An example task would be to develop a teaching philosophy statement including references to research literature about learning and teaching theory, concepts and principles, and provide feedback to others on their statements.  



GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5 

Assessment Task 2 

The kind of assessment task needed is one that requires students to relate the concepts, principles and theories they are learning from the educational literature to their own practice. This should be a task that requires some cognitive transactional effort that would support the process of assimilating declarative content into the form of conceptual understanding.  


An example task would be for students to prepare report on a work-based, critical self-reflection and analysis of teaching approaches comprising a teaching strategy for one or more learning outcomes in a unit they themselves teach (or other significant teaching activity). Optionally, this could involve peer review (e.g. written paper, poster; webpages; portfolio item). The assignment would need to include learning theory or approaches, learner characteristics, mode of delivery, resources, design, policies and literature informing these strategies.  


LO1, LO2 

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA6, GA8 

Assessment Task 3 

The kind of assessment task needed is one that requires students to apply their conceptual understanding of educational concepts, principles and theories relating to adult education in a tertiary setting, combined with institutional context and mission, to devise and justify improved teaching practices. The task needs to be an extension of assignment 1 and 2 to maintain the constructive developmental sequence.  


An example would be: based on assessment item 1 & 2, prepare a report that suggests approaches to teaching (based on literature on learning theories and principles in higher education) that are ethical and Mission-based, responsive to student diversity, and designed to engage students in learning.


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8 

Representative texts and references

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does (4th ed.). Maidenhead, UK: SRHE/Open University Press.  

Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching, HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 1, 5-22. Retrieved from 

Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Hunt, L., & Chalmers, D. (Eds.). (2013). University teaching in focus: A learning-centred approach. London: Routledge. 

Kolb., A. Y., Kolb, D. A., Passarelli, A., & Sharma, G. (2014). On becoming an experiential educator: The educator role profile. Simulation and Gaming, 45(2), 204-234.  

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2015). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (7th ed.). London: Routledge.  

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.  

Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to teach in higher education (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge Falmer.  

Potter, M., & Kustra, E. (2012). A primer on learning outcomes and the SOLO taxonomy. Center for Teaching & Learning, University of Windsor. Retrieved from 

 Prosser, M., & Trigwell, K. (2014). Qualitative variation in approaches to university teaching and learning in large first-year classes.  Higher Education67, 783-795. 

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