Making Positive Changes to Students' Learning Experiences: A Tailored Professional Development Tool

Monash University, Australia

Bella ROSS
Monash University, Australia

The University of Newcastle, Australia

Katherine LINDSAY
The University of Newcastle, Australia

Steve DREW
Griffith University, Australia

Edith Cowan University, Australia

Caroline COTTMAN
University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia


In a rapidly changing global higher education sector, it is becoming increasingly important to provide a quality educational experience to students. With increasing competition to attract local and international students, quality teaching has become a focus for students. Academic teachers have traditionally not received formal training in teaching, and many feel unprepared and/or unsupported to improve their teaching practice.

The Peer Assisted Teaching Scheme (PATS) is a new form of Teaching and Learning professional development for academic teaching staff to assist them in enhancing teaching quality, increasing teaching satisfaction and student learning experiences (PATS website, 2013). The scheme provides a structured framework to reinvigorate courses through collegial input and self-regulated activities (Zimmerman, 1989, 2008) that involve goal-setting exercises, peer observation of teaching and analysis of informal student feedback. In 2012, the scheme was trialed at five universities nationwide and this trial is the basis for this showcase.

The data presented here comprise student evaluations of teaching and units for units that took part in PATS for a semester. These scores are compared (where possible) to the previous offering of the subject. We then outline the key educational areas that participants in the trial focused on improving.

These results are taken from PATS workbook tasks where participants were asked which areas of their teaching they were aiming at improving. The results are overwhelmingly positive, reporting considerable changes to academic teaching practice (D'Souza, Bauers, Carbone, & Ross, 2014) and increases in student evaluation scored after using PATS for a semester of teaching (Carbone et al., forthcoming). The analysis of the key areas that academic teachers focused on shows similarities across institutions and departments revealing that the main challenges to improving teaching are somewhat universal amongst academic teachers.

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