What Price Excellence in Learning and Teaching? Exploring the Costs and Benefits for Diverse Academic Staff Studying for a GCHE Supporting the SoTL.

Keywords: academic development, graduate certificate in higher education, teaching excellence, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)


In the wake of policy, technology, and ideological disruptions in Western higher education, it is in universities’ interests to improve the quality of their learning and teaching to meet changed expectations. In some countries, particularly anglophone countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, the medium for this improvement is often professional development of academic staff provided through a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (GCHE). This paper presents mixed methods research conducted at an Australian University. It addresses the questions of how a GCHE contributes to teaching quality and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) from the perspective of course participants and their educators in the context of a university wide strategy to promote a culture of excellence in learning and teaching. Data and analysis indicate significant benefits to academic staff, their students, and the host institution from completion of a GCHE. However, tensions around academic workloads, compulsion, and some contradictions in espoused educational values and managerialist impositions emerge in these advancements. The educators in the GCHE (academic developers) were sometimes caught in the crossfire. Their reflections on this experience are included in the data and analysis.

Author Biographies

Alison Owens, Australian Catholic University

Alison Owens is a Senior Lecturer in the Learning and Teaching Centre at the ACU University and an adjunct Associate Professor (Education) at Central Queensland University. She holds dual PhDs (Education, Creative Arts) and has over twenty-five years university teaching experience. Alison regularly researches and publishes on topics relevant to higher education practice. 

Angela Daddow, Deakin University

Angela Daddow is a lecturer in Social Work at Deakin University, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her post-graduate qualifications in Social Work and Education often merge in her research interests. These are inclusive curriculum design, transformative pedagogies, and learning and teaching in higher education

Georgia Clarkson, Australian Catholic University

Georgia Clarkson is a Senior Lecturer in higher education at the Learning and Teaching Centre at the Australian Catholic University. Georgia holds a PhD in educational sociology and a Masters in Education. She has previously worked as an academic in paramedicine and has also led numerous funded learning and teaching projects. 

Duncan Nulty, Australian Catholic University

Duncan D Nulty is recognised for his expertise in tertiary education institution policy and practice, academic standards, curriculum design and the evaluation of educational programs. He has a sustained record of excellence in academic leadership, research, teaching, and community service and has published extensively in a range of scholarly publications. 


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How to Cite
Owens, Alison, Angela Daddow, Georgia Clarkson, and Duncan Nulty. 2021. “What Price Excellence in Learning and Teaching? Exploring the Costs and Benefits for Diverse Academic Staff Studying for a GCHE Supporting the SoTL.”. Teaching & Learning Inquiry 9 (1), 161-79. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.9.1.12.