Framing scholarly accounts for learning and teaching in higher
Stephen Billett, GALTS
Purposes ……….
Open up discussion about and considerations of the
scholarship of learning and teaching (SoLT)
Delineate some key elements of and bases for those
scholarly activities
Assist participants identify issues of interest which
could become focuses for scholarly activities
Commence a process that might led to individual or
collaborative scholarly projects
Inform about and make accessible the support
available through Griffith and GALT, in particular
Defining key terms and setting out the
Scholarship of learning and teaching (SoLT)
Accounts of learning and development
Theories of learning
Education intents
Goals for higher education: Knowledge to be
Curriculum, Teaching and learning practices
Curriculum practices
Pedagogic practices
Epistemological practices
Martin, Benjamin, Prosser and Trigwell (1999) propose three related
activities constitute the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL):
• engagement with the existing knowledge on teaching and learning,
• self-reflection on teaching and learning in one’s discipline, and
• public sharing of ideas about teaching and learning within the
However, much and perhaps most of what is taken as
being ‘informed’ is contested and still contestable.
The nature of social sciences
i) few unambiguous truths;
ii) evolving understanding of human learning and
development, and
iii) how it can be intentionally promoted through
teaching and other educational efforts.
Why engage in the scholarship of learning and teaching (SoLT)?
Trigwell (2012) suggests this scholarship is a:
• way to raise the state of teaching
• means to through which teachers can be become more
• means to assess the quality of teaching
• way to enhance students’ experience of learning.
However, there are other reasons to engage in SoLT:
• advancing your thinking, procedures or theorising
• securing employment and improving prospects of tenure and/or
• securing teaching and learning scholarships and grants
• enriching your work life
• making your research on teaching accessible to others
• addressing issues impacting upon you, your community or discipline
• others ………….
Issues that attract your attention
As we progress make note of some issues that
concern you and might form a basis for the kinds
of scholarly work in which you might engage.
For instance, ……….
Some ‘new’ challenges for higher education ............
1. Time jealous students
Educational provisions are nothing more or less than
invitations to change
2. Time jealous teachers !!
3. Resource jealous practice settings
But there are many other issues and
challenges that warrant scholarly
Nascent state of educational science
The science and informed practices of education still in its
Understanding the knowledge to be learnt and processes of that
learning are nascent, and are often overturned by what was
accepted earlier
Curriculum and pedagogic concepts and practices are relatively
immature (e.g., curriculum studies 1949, educational
psychology 1930s)
Development not always scientific (e.g. psychological thought,
political imperatives, history, fads)
Uncertainty about what experiences are generative of what
kinds of knowledge
What constitutes effective higher education teaching?
... new cultural means are being elaborated at an accelerating rate in
industrialised nations. Hardly have we approached the problem of understanding
the intellectual impact of the printing press, than we are urged to confront the
psychological implications of computerisation. (Scribner 1985: 138)
The limits education and the schooled society
‘Schooled’ societies have orthodoxies and assumptions
about the inherent value and privileged status of
Education and ‘schooling’ have brought many benefits,
yet its discourse offers narrow accounts about:
• human knowing (i.e. what can be observed)
• learning (i.e. what can be measured)
• knowledge (i.e. what can be declared)
Such accounts are increasingly emphasised in prescriptive
standards and educational provisions
Please note: the critique of teaching and educational institutions here is
advanced in the belief that teachers and these institutions make a
positive difference – the concern is to improve those differences
Yet, not captured, articulated or privileged in this discourse:
• Many procedural capacities (i.e. strategic and
specific) needed by graduates to effectively
• Embodied learning (i.e. knowing through the
sensory system)
• Haptic qualities (i.e. feel, tactile competence)
• Dispositions (i.e. values, interest, intentionality
– ethical conduct, for instance)
Yet, these capacities are central to much of
occupational performance required by
So, there is lots of scope for drawing, yet also
building, upon what is known about promoting
learning in higher education
But let’s start somewhere …………..
Accounts of learning and development
Broad orientations
Evolution of theories of learning and development
Perspectives on human cognition and learning
(nativist vs. empiricist accounts)
Individuals are genetically
endowed with knowledge
Chomsky, Fodor, Kant,
Individuals construct all they
know from experience
Pavlov, Skinner, Bruner,
Let’s, for argument’s sake, follow through with the empiricist account
Definitions ……
Learning: Change in individuals’ knowledge
Arises from experiences that are either externally (i.e. interpsychologically) or internally (i.e. intra-psychologically) initiated
Moment by moment and continually - not reserved for particular
kinds of experiences, although there may be specific legacies –
“activities structure cognition” (Rogoff & Lave 1984)
Change by degree – transformational through to refinement and
honing of what is already known
Person dependent, by degree
Development: accumulation and legacy of moment by moment
learning across individuals’ life courses – (i.e. ontogenetic
development) shapes how they learn
Some questions
What do the empiricist views suggest in terms of
approaches to learning (and, therefore, teaching)?
What should come first a consideration of teaching or
learning in higher education?
What is emphasised in current educational
experiences in which you are involved?
How well are your students prepared to be active and
self-initiating learners?
What needs to happen for them to be more active
constructive learners?
Human learning and development …
Across human history most learning and development
premised on individuals’ active learning, not teaching
Teacherly acts appear to be largely a product of schooling
and schooled societies
Active processes of learning seem to predominate, although
teaching was available to some
… Whatever the origins of the didactic mode, it has always been a minor
mode of knowledge acquisition in our evolutionary history. In the West,
however, the didactic mode of teaching and learning has come to prevail in
our schools to such an extent that is often taken for granted as the most
natural, as was the most efficacious and efficient way of going about
teaching and learning. This view is held despite the many instances in our
own culture of learning through observation and imitation.
(Jordan 1989: 932)
So, what accounts inform teaching and learning in higher education?
Three major movements (see elaborations in handouts)
Behavioural accounts – responses to stimulus – person mediating responses
Cognitive account – emphasises intra-psychological processes – ability to
manipulate knowledge (cleverness)
Key contributions:
i) individuals’ domains of knowledge,
ii) role and extent of memory,
iii) limitations of processing capacity and
iv) development of expertise
Sociocultural, cultural psychological and anthropological accounts –
emphasises inter-psychological processes
Contributions of history, culture and situations as mediated through the
suggestion of the social world
sources of access to knowledge generated in society
Behavioural accounts of knowing (Skinner, Pavlov, Thorndike,
Learning - a learnt response to a stimulus
Neo-behavioural knowing - learnt response is mediated, in part, by the
organism (Watson & Kantor)
Secondary reinforcement might be required, can be used
(i.e. learning)
From here, the discussion is largely about the degree by which what is experienced and
responded to – perception – action – is shaped by the organism (person) or by factors
‘beyond the skin’
Cognitive psychological account
Learning arising from individuals’ manipulation of knowledge and experience
Sensory input
Change in
Intra-psychological capacities (cognitive structures)
General capacities – strategic and specific functions (literacy, numeracy)
Domain specific capacities (e.g. occupational knowledge)
Abilities and cleverness (i.e. ability to manipulate knowledge)
Importance of: i) individuals’ domains of knowledge, ii) role and extent of
memory, iii) limitations of processing capacity and iv) development of expertise
Sociocultural/cultural psychological/anthropological accounts
Learning (intra-psychological change) arising from the mediation of the social suggestion
Historical, cultural and situational factors
Domain specific capacities (e.g. occupational knowledge)
General capacities – strategic and specific functions (literacy, numeracy)
Projection of social suggestion
Changes in knowledge
Micro-genetic actions
leading to ontogentic
Intra-psychological capacities (cognitive structures)
General capacities – strategic and specific functions (e.g. literacy, numeracy)
Domain specific capacities (e.g. occupational knowledge)
Abilities and cleverness (i.e. ability to manipulate knowledge)
So what?
Suggests that higher educational provisions need to account for
i) experiences provided for students and
how they will come to experience them
Affordances and engagement
• Affordances – the degree by which students are invited and
supported in their learning)
• Engagement – how students engage with and learn through
what they are afforded
Need to consider these in the provision of educational provisions
Educational intents
Educational programs and provisions need to be guided by clear
and informed intents (i.e. what is intended to be achieved)
Also, often used to assess students’ learning, teaching efficacy
and course evaluations
Aims – broad statements
Goals – more specific statements
Objectives – detailed statements, such as those against which
students might be assessed
How adequately are statements of educational intents in your
courses and programs addressing the learning required for
your students?
How should they be changed?
Concerns about educational intents
Who should formulate them?
A range of perspectives adopted in considering these intents.
Educators cannot claim to have privileged role in stating
educational intents - a range of interests
Yet, without engaging educators in their development it is
unlikely that others’ intentions will be faithfully enacted
Often, highly measurable educational intents focus on relatively
unimportant kinds
Case study: CBT in vocational education
Adaptability and flexibility was the stated goal
Let’s now consider the kinds of knowledge that higher students needs to learn – to
progress smoothly into practice on graduation – these should be sources for such intents
Knowledge required for disciplinary or occupational practice
• Occupational specific capacities (i.e. domain-specific
conceptual, procedural and dispositional knowledge)
• Also, capacities that augment and are embedded in
occupational activities (e.g. communication, calculation,
values, working with others, problem-solving)
• These capacities exist at the canonical (i.e. occupational)
and situational (e.g. workplace) levels
• … yet need to be constructed by individuals as their
personal domains of occupational knowledge
Knowledge required for effective practice
Domain-specific conceptual knowledge – ‘concepts, facts, propositions – surface
to deep) (e.g. Glaser 1989)
Domain-specific procedural knowledge – how to achieve goals - specific through to
strategic procedures) (e.g. Anderson 1993, Sun et al 2001)
Dispositional knowledge - (i.e. values, attitudes) (e.g. Perkins et al 1993), includes
Conceptual knowledge
Procedural knowledge
Dispositional knowledge
What kinds, combinations and sequencing of experiences can
generate these interlinked forms of knowledge?
Curriculum considerations
Definition – provision and pathway of experiences
What is the best sequencing of experiences?
What should be the intended learning from these
What should be the duration of experiences?
How might those experiences be integrated?
Formulating and enacting curriculum
Three conceptions of curriculum
Intended curriculum – what is intended to occur by sponsors or developers in
terms of educational outcomes (e.g. syllabus, course outline etc).
Enacted curriculum – what is enacted as shaped by available resources,
teachers and others’ experiences and expertise, interpretation of
intentions and, values
Experienced curriculum – what students experience and learn when they
engage with what is enacted
Increasingly the first one is becoming the key imperative across most sectors
of Australian education, and higher education is no exception
Curriculum considerations
Sequencing and purpose of learners’ experiences
e.g. midwifery students’ follow throughs and clinical practice
How might these experiences be ordered?
Year 1
Follow throughs
Year 2
Follow throughs
Clinical placements
Year 3
Clinical placements
Considerations for the ‘experienced’ curriculum include:
Students' interest and readiness central to their engagement and learning in
higher education
immediate concerns and goals focus of students' interest
early and staged engagement in practice settings boosts many students'
confidence to re-engage and learn effectively
challenges to personal confidence and competence can be redressed by
effective group processes, including sharing of experience
Strong emphasis here on readiness to participate
Pedagogic practices
Pedagogy – kinds of guidance provided to assist students’
learning, - augmenting and supporting learning in specific
Where to begin!!!.. A whole range of pedagogic practice (e.g.
direct teaching, project work, group work, independent
studies, internet enhanced learning support, guided
learning etc.)
Pedagogic practices directed to achieve particular outcomes
Findings ways of engaging students with experiences through which they will
construct the knowledge they need to learn – need aligning with what is to be learnt
For example, some pedagogic practices adopted to integrate experiences
Debrief - journalism
Classroom group discussion – journalism
Preparatory and debriefing activities – applied theatre/law/public relations
Portfolio preparation - creative arts
Reflections on prior experiences – medicine, teacher education
Practicum preparatory workshops – health sciences, social work
Reflections on current experiences of work – business, music
Project based activities - tourism
Learners’ (students’) personal epistemologies
Personal epistemologies – how individuals construe and construct
knowledge premised on what they know, experience, including
their interests, intentionalities and subjectivities.
It is they who learn
Educators merely offer an invitation to change
It is their taking up of that invitation that is most important ...
Some focuses for developing agentic personal
orient students to requirements
for effectively engaging in higher
preparing students to participate
as agentic learners
develop procedural capacities
required to be an effective
make links to, and reconcile
between, what is taught (learnt) in
the academy, and what is
experienced elsewhere (e.g.
practice settings)
facilitate the sharing and drawing
out of students’ experiences
generate in students critical
perspectives on their learning
So what………?
Much important scholarly work to be done to inform, design, enact
and evaluate effective learning experiences in higher education
That is, to identify what constitutes effective learning and teaching in
higher education
Effective higher education provisions require careful and informed
planning, enactment and clear educational intents
All of these need informing by scholarly activities, …… Also, …
i) teacherly processes can enrich those experiences, but need guiding
by informed and intentional (i.e. scholarly) practices
ii) students likely need to be convinced, guided and assisted to realise
and secure the worth of higher education experiences
iii) processes of engaging students in knowledge constructing activities
likely to be more effective than ‘just telling’
All this requires higher education teachers to be scholarly practitioners
whose practice is informed and developed through their own practice
Questions, clarifications etc etc
Questions, clarifications, contestations etc etc
What are the kinds of learning and teaching issues
that motivate your interest in scholarly work?
What kinds of scholarly outcomes would you like to
What kinds of support do you need to achieve those

Seminar presentation ( PPTX 3.3mb)