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Finding a Focus

The following dimensions of teaching practice are intended to be used as a guide for your peer review sessions. Please note that the same dimensions are used in the University’s Teaching Review Program (TRP).

Once you have decided on the teaching activity you would like your peer partner to observe, it is recommended that you use the following dimensions of teaching practice to help you find a specific focus for your teaching observation sessions.

The ten dimensions of teaching outlined below are not independent; inevitably there is overlap across different dimensions. It is unlikely that any one teaching session would demonstrate all of the outlined teaching strategies to the same, significant extent. We suggest that you choose one or two dimensions only as the focus for your first PARD-P observation.

The following dimensions are based on the 2009 ALTC project Peer Review of Teaching for Promotion Purposes.

  • Dimension 1: Ensuring students are actively engaged in learning

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • fostering a supportive, non-threatening teaching/learning environment
    • encouraging students to express views, ask and answer questions, and allow time and opportunity for this to occur
    • using questioning skills which encourage student engagement
    • providing immediate and constructive feedback where appropriate
    • demonstrating enthusiasm for teaching and learning
    • providing opportunities for self-directed learning and/or collaboration
    • (for smaller groups) fostering extensive interaction
    • (for very large groups) presenting in such a manner as to achieve maximum engagement
  • Dimension 2: Building upon students’ prior knowledge and experience

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • being fully aware of and/or determining students’ prior knowledge and understanding
    • building on students’ current knowledge and understanding, and taking them conceptually beyond this level
    • where appropriate, using and building upon student contributions and preparation
  • Dimension 3: Designing learning that caters for student diversity

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • demonstrating an appreciation of the different levels of knowledge and understanding in a group
    • addressing, as appropriate, different learning needs and styles within the group
    • focussing on building confidence, enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation
    • fostering students’ responsibility for their own learning, encouraging them towards being self-directed learners, (as distinct from teacher-directed learners)
    • using appropriate strategies for different needs, balancing discursive interactive strategies with those that are more didactic (where simple transmission of knowledge is needed)
    • recognising, at times, the need for teacher-directed strategies such as explaining, and being able to implement these effectively
    • exercising balance between challenging and supporting students
    • designing activities/tasks that allow students of differing abilities to participate/engage and demonstrate/enhance their learning
    • providing examples or opportunities for discussion that cater for cultural diversity
  • Dimension 4: Encouraging students to develop and/or transform conceptual understandings

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • helping students bridge the gap between their current conceptual understanding and the next “level”
    • helping students become aware of what the next levels are
    • encouraging students to become self-directed learners by using a “lecture”/presentation as the stimulus for individual study/learning
    • challenging students intellectually e.g. by extending them with question/answer/discussion components where students’ conclusions must be justified to the teacher and peers. This usually involves questions such as “What do you think is going on”; “Why”; “What if…?” etc
    • encouraging students construct their individual conceptual understanding (ultimately the learner must be responsible for his/her own learning)
    • encouraging deep (intrinsic) rather than surface (extrinsic) approaches to learning
    • working cooperatively with students to help them enhance understanding
    • clearly demonstrating a thorough command of the subject matter
  • Dimension 5: Making key learning outcomes explicit

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • ensuring students are progressively aware of key learning outcomes
    • focussing on learning outcomes at key points in the presentation
    • ensuring a synthesis of key learning outcomes is emphasised towards the conclusion of the session so that individual student follow-up work is well focussed
    • encouraging each student to accept responsibility for learning issues to follow-up and consolidate
    • ensuring students are aware of the link between key learning outcomes and assessment (formative and summative), as appropriate.
  • Dimension 6: Encouraging students to make links between disciplinary and/or inter-disciplinary theory and practice

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • emphasising, where appropriate, links between theory and practice
    • providing opportunities for students to make their own connections between theory and practice
    • using research links appropriately, given the level of student conceptual development
    • raising students' awareness of what constitutes research and how it applies to practice
  • Dimension 7: Making effective use of learning environments, resources and technologies

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • using IT techniques effectively, e.g. PowerPoint, multimedia presentations or digital content of a professional standard
    • using, as appropriate, a balance of learning technologies and other strategies
    • using available classroom and online resources to support student learning effectively
    • supplying resources, materials and literature to support student learning
    • using specific educational strategies and techniques in the design and delivery of teaching sessions, to achieve key objectives
    • encouraging self-directed, effective use of technologies and resources
  • Dimension 8: Presenting material in an appropriately structured manner

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • providing an early brief structural overview of the session
    • developing this structure in a coherent manner, ensuring students are constantly aware of the development of the session
    • providing time for reviewing at key stages, including closure
    • establishing closure, aiming at helping students draw together and understand major issues and identify individual learning needs and short-comings
  • Dimension 9: Seeking feedback on students’ understanding and acting on this accordingly

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • seeking feedback progressively during the session e.g. through constant observation of interest level and engagement and by using specific questions to test understanding
    • modifying a presentation to accommodate feedback messages
    • seeking feedback towards the conclusion of the session to assist students to determine individual work to be consolidated
  • Dimension 10: Providing timely feedback on student work and/or progress

    Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

    • recognising the time it takes to learn and complete tasks
    • helping clarify good performance (goals, criteria, expected standards)
    • facilitating the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
    • delivering high quality information to students about their learning
    • encouraging teacher and peer dialogue around learning
    • encouraging positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
    • providing opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance
    • carefully communicating concepts
    • asking open questions and providing clear feedback
    • giving feedback that acknowledges effort and personal standards and encouraging students to be intrinsically motivated

The University of Adelaide acknowledges the support and materials provided by RMIT University in the development of the Peer Review scheme.

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