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Editor Interview: University Teaching in Focus - 2nd Edition

Posted on: June 8, 2021

Distilling the knowledge and insights of internationally acclaimed experts in university teaching


Written by a host of contributing authors and edited by two leading Australian Emeritus Professors, University Teaching in Focus (2nd Edition) will be a key resource for foundational teaching development programs in higher education institutions or as a self-help manual by early career and experienced teachers who wish to enhance their students’ learning.

The editors of this book, Lynne Hunt and Denise Chalmers, were kind enough to spend some time answering some of the most pressing questions about the new edition of their important book.


1. What is the focus of the 2nd edition of University Teaching in Focus (UTiF)?

The focus of this 2nd edition of the UTiF is on student learning. It distils the vision, knowledge and insights of international experts in higher education teaching to explore ways to engage students in lifelong learning and to extend their capacity to solve problems, understand their disciplines, enter the workforce and live and work positively in diverse communities.

The textbook is divided into four sections and 15 chapters. The sections are:
1. Focus on subject and curriculum design
2. Focus on subject teaching and learning
3. Focus on students
4. Focus on your career

Each of the 15 chapters targets issues relevant to beginning or early career teachers. They also serve as an accessible resource for established university teachers seeking to update their understanding of theories, principles and practices that are known to facilitate students’ learning. Although each chapter focuses on a particular topic, significant cross-referencing between chapters signals the importance of holistic approaches to teaching preparation, strategies and innovation.


2. Who might benefit from reading University Teaching in Focus?

This second edition of the textbook may be used as a resource for teaching development programs in higher education institutions and as a self-help manual. It provides succinct analyses of foundational knowledge and skills associated with critical aspects of teaching curriculum, quality and scholarship, and examines ways in which university and higher education teachers support their students’ learning.

Time-poor academics will benefit from UTiF, as Tom Angelo says in Chapter 2: ‘This chapter is designed for busy academics. To benefit, you need not read it from start to finish. The within-chapter headings provide sign posting and options to address a range of needs, priorities and interests’.

Academics wishing to build their careers through university teaching, and the scholarship of teaching, will benefit from reading UTiF. The discussions draw on quality teaching frameworks and policies and show how these can inform teaching innovations. Together, the chapters provide strategies for the development of expert teaching practices that can be demonstrated in portfolios for annual performance reviews, applications for promotion and teaching awards. It is a practical book that shows how to enhance students’ learning, and how to enhance your academic career at the same time. Chapter 15 may be where you want to start if you are considering promotion or applying for teaching awards.


3. If you could impart one piece of teaching wisdom to everybody currently going through a foundational teaching development program – what would that be?

The quick answer is, ‘focus on student learning’, but the question doesn’t capture the tone of UTiF. While the book does impart recent, evidence-based wisdom, the style is discursive, not didactic. UTiF offers case studies and ‘your thoughts’ segments to encourage you to consider, adapt and apply information and resources to local circumstances. This approach acknowledges that universities around the world have a shared commitment and responsibility to facilitate the learning of university students while operating in diverse cultural, political and economic environments.

Each chapter offers international perspectives on practical and effective strategies to facilitate student learning and engagement without imposing a one-size-fits-all approach and it does this by asking questions.

• In Britain, Martyn Stewart asks, ‘Can you identify areas of teaching where there is a risk of cognitive overload? How might you create space or reorganise learning by breaking sessions into manageable chunks? Can you create a safe learning space for error-making?’

• In Australia, Angela Hill, Kylie Readman and Katrina Strampel, ask, ‘What strategies or approaches are implemented to give your students a ‘clear view of their own knowledge, skills and values’ (Fung 2017) as they successfully progress through the course?

• In New Zealand, Kathryn Sutherland wants you to think about what your students bring to your classroom. What do they already know and what can they already do, and how will you find this out?

• In Canada, Sarah Eaton invites you to find out what resources your institution offers to help you learn how to identify and address contract cheating

• In the USA, Alison Cook-Sather and her Australian colleague, Kelly Mathews explore pedagogical partnerships and ask you to consider where you want to begin. Is it, ‘Classroom partnership, curricular co-design, knowledge co-creation, or some combination?’


4. Times have changed. To what extent has COVID pandemic required university teachers to even more innovative and responsive in their approach to university?

The 2nd edition of UTiF explores timeless qualities of university teaching excellence such as learner-centred approaches, and appropriate use of learning technologies, but it does also feature issues of the day, especially in regard to the COVID pandemic. This is particularly so in the chapter on assessment which shows that: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic forced students to stay at home… so, universities worldwide had to be flexible and find ways to replace … unseen, time-constrained, invigilated exams’. One of the chapter authors worked with a colleague to develop guidelines for ‘Rapid Alternatives to Face-to-Face Assessment’, and these are shared in UTiF. Chapter 8 on learning technologies also draws on examples of how universities needed to more fully utilise the technologies to support students studying online. 

Another major change in universities around the world is the greater diversity of students which Liz Thomas addresses in Chapter 10. She explores the practice of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which creates a learning environment for a diversity of learners, rather than retrospectively making adaptations to accommodate specific students.

5. What do you consider to be the unique features of this textbook?

University Teaching in Focus addresses subjects that remain largely untouched by other books about university teaching, such as the chapter on Indigenous knowers and knowledge. In the authors’ words, this chapter “introduces Australian Aboriginal epistemologies and pedagogies and shows how they contrast with traditional Western academic knowledge and practices. Key Indigenous concepts such as ‘cultural safety’ and ‘both-ways education’ are explained before practical strategies for bringing authentic Indigenous knowledges into the classroom are explored.” While acknowledging the unique issues of different first nations people around the world, this chapter also offers a brief reflection on Indigenous knowledges and knowers in international tertiary contexts.


University Teaching in Focus - 2nd Edition is available now from routledge.com.