Teaching Practices

Teaching takes place at CDU in a variety of different modes such as internal, external, mixed mode, intensives and workshops. Although most students still enrol in either internal or external mode, in practice the majority of students will utilise Learnline for a significant amount of the learning activities. It is also important to remember that there is an expectation that students studying in different delivery modes have the right to an equivalent learning experience to other students in that unit.

Good teaching practice is not just about knowing how to teach, it is also about being able to maintain good practice in spite of the additional distractions and tasks that can occur during teaching periods. Good teaching practice is also about monitoring one's own needs as a teacher.

Teacher presence is a critical factor in the development of learning environments and is one of the Six Key Principles that underpin learning design and teaching practice at CDU. The main focus of this section is on the actions of teachers when they are engaged with students in learning processes during the semester, and looks at practices that relate to both online and face-to-face teaching.

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Learnline and the internet more generally, are used to provide learning resources and content to students at CDU. Regardless of this, teachers typically remain firmly engaged in live content delivery during teaching periods. With this in mind it is important teachers develop their skills in order to present material in interesting and engaging ways that promote successful learning. It is important to consider both face-to-face and online content delivery (although in many ways from a presentation skills perspective both modes share some similarities).

The following elements should be considered as part of preparing presentations (Flinders University, n.d.; UNSW, 2013):

  • Lesson structure
    • include a beginning (introduction, an attention grabber, an icebreaker, a summary of last time)
    • a middle (the main body, involvement at different levels and formats)
    • an end (the conclusion and summary, what to expect next time, have an obvious finish point).
  • Timing
    • chunk a lecture or presentation into 15-20 minute blocks
    • keep students engaged with activities and changes of pace
    • include a break
    • run a rehearsal to check timing.
  • Presentation style
    • vary this by incorporating different media
    • consider presenting from different parts of the rooms.
  • Questioning skills
    • use open-ended and probing questions (Why? What? How?)
    • pause to give students time to think
    • if no response, then rephrase or redirect the question
    • always react positively to the answers.
  • Use the online classroom (Blackboard Collaborate)
    • give external students the experience of your live lecture
    • make content available to students for revision through edited Online Classroom recordings.
  • Use guest presenters or expert speakers.
  • Check rooms and equipment
    • Refer to instructions for the use of equipment in ‘new’ teaching spaces
    • the OLT Higher Education and Training Developer linked to your School can support you in this.

It is not uncommon for multiple teachers to be involved in the same unit. This often occurs in situations where there are a large number of students or where different lecturers are allocated to different delivery modes or locations. If you are co-teaching a unit it is important to recognise it offers opportunities and challenges when compared to a single teacher arrangement. Strategies that can promote good teaching practice in co-teaching arrangements include:

  • Preparation and planning
    • marking and grading
    • ensuring an equivalent experience for students in different delivery modes
    • task allocation between lecturers teaching into the unit.
  • Provision of information to students about the co-teaching arrangement and how it will work
  • Ideas for content delivery and collaboration using multiple teachers
  • Unit development
    • use multiple teachers to improve the unit by doing things like making a video that debates a certain issue from two different viewpoints.

One of the major goals for teachers is to create or facilitate an environment in which students learn from one another. Many students have significant life and work experience which can serve as a valuable resource in the learning process. Further, environments in which students are comfortable and confident in sharing ideas with each other can reduce the burden on the lecturer to maintain discussions. In these environments students answer questions from other students which saves the teacher from having to respond to minor issues. Teaching practices that facilitate students learning could include:

  • Understanding group dynamics (Weimer, 2013), for example:
    • acknowledging and utilising the strengths and expertise of individual students
    • guiding group and team roles and formation
    • encouraging social interaction.
  • Facilitating formal group learning activities, for example:
    • group assignments
    • group presentations
    • discussion groups.
  • Facilitating an informal group learning environment, for example:
    • through providing students with clear instructions about how they can learn from other students which they can build from over the course of the teaching period.
  • Dealing with dangers in group learning
    • plagiarism and the inability to determine individual contribution
      • use SafeAssign for assignment submission
      • design assignments to prevent collaboration.
    • student anxiety in having to work with students they haven't met
      • use icebreakers
      • ensure students are aware of group formation dynamics
      • create groups in different ways.
    • can be time consuming to organise
      • use the Group tools in Learnline
      • can be offset by dealing with fewer submissions.

Although a unit or course may not require significant alternations from one semester to the next, things like changes in the composition of the student cohort can create new challenges. Common issues that may emerge during a teaching period that can place additional pressure on the teacher include:

  • Students requiring extensions to assignments
    • Does your theme or School have an agreed approach?
    • Read the CDU HE Assessment Procedures or guidance
    • Plan your marking so that students that did submit on time are not disadvantaged.
  • Disruptive students both online and in the classroom
    • Have a plan for those difficult conversations (Bart, 2012).
  • Students not keeping up with readings and learning (e.g. not coming to class prepared to discuss the appropriate topics)

It is crucial that teachers remember that they are not the only source from which students can get assistance. There are a wide variety of student support services available at CDU for both external and campus-based students. In the classroom context the teacher has a key role because they are often the first point of contact for students and can link them with appropriate support by:

  • Being available to support students. For example, have advertised “office hours” for both for internal and external students
  • Providing information to students, such as utilising the “For Students” tab in Learnline
  • Referring students to specific support services (see the Current Students section of the CDU website).


Bart, M. (2012). Dealing with Difficult Students and other Classroom disruptions. Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/dealing-with-difficult-students-and-other-classroom-disruptions/

Biggs, J. B. & Tang, C. S.  (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th. Ed.), Society for Research into Higher Education, Maidenhead : McGraw-Hill/Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press. 2011

Chickering, A. & Ehrmann, S. (1996), Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever, AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6. http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven

Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987) "Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education" American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7

Flinders University (n.d.).Teaching Quality at Flinders. http://www.flinders.edu.au/teaching/quality/teaching-methods/teaching-methods_home.cfm

HERDSA Guides, http://www.herdsa.org.au/?page_id=139

UNSW. (22 April 2013). Teaching Practice at UNSW. http://teaching.unsw.edu.au/practice

Weimer, M. (2013).What Group Dynamics Can Teach Us about Classroom Learning. Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/what-group-dynamics-can-teach-us-about-classroom-learning/

West, D., Cameron, J., & Wozniak, H. (Feb, 2011). CDU Unit Levels Guide. Darwin: Charles Darwin University.