Case #2: Distributed Leadership to Embed Scholarship in STEM Teaching Teams


DISCIPLINE: Scholarship in STEM, Higher Education, Quality Assurance
RESEARCH AREAS: Developing academic capability for scholarship, authentic leadership


In Australia, the Higher Education Standards Framework (HESF) minimum requirements include continuous evaluation that informs ongoing curriculum transformation; five threshold standards refer explicitly to scholarship.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), which regulates the sector in Australia, recently published a Guidance Note: Scholarship that states: ‘The intent of the Standards is that scholarship that is claimed to inform teaching (or supervision) must have a demonstrable relevance to the course being taught, including scholarship relating to the process of teaching and learning in itself.’ (TEQSA, 2018, p. 4).

Changes to national Learning and Teaching awards and grants suggests a signal that scholarship is in practice an undervalued and largely invisible activity that may be neglected altogether by academics and management in Australian universities.

Our fellowship is a response to minimum requirements for continuous evaluation informing ongoing curriculum transformation. It is a key driver for universities to identify mechanisms to engage and reward academics to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). The whole team of academics involved in designing and teaching degree curriculum need to be engaged in SoTL; not just specialist teachers.


In STEM, prioritization of disciplinary research and lack of capacity/expertise in research approaches more common to the humanities, social sciences and education are substantial barriers to SoTL.

Our Fellowship embeds leadership for active engagement in scholarship within teaching teams. It contextualizes the ‘Curriculum Evaluation Research (CER) framework’ (Kelder & Carr, 2017) for the specific characteristics of STEM degrees. The outputs include national workshops for fourteen institutional partners, a STEM specific CER framework, a website presenting the framework, dissemination outputs, and sharing of case studies and resources developed during the fellowship.

Longer-term outputs will be a greater percentage of STEM academics engaged positively in scholarship and an improved curriculum.


The Fellowship demonstrates Mentorship and Empowerment with an Action Orientation (Fields, Kenny, & Mueller, 2019). The CER framework (Fig. 1) – specifically adapted for STEM academics – supports team-based planning and, doing activities that are aligned with institutional structures, processes and governance instruments, so that scholarship can be made visible, monitored, measured, met and reported at the level of degree curriculum.

The joint leadership provided for this institute explains why, what and how scholarship can be undertaken for a whole curriculum and provides practical opportunities to apply the CER framework and adapt the resources to a local context. The Fellowship is endorsed by the Australian Council of Deans of Science, and we envisage their support will be a key factor in enabling a translation of the concepts into research plans approved by Research Ethics Committees, to empower academics teaching in STEM disciplines to collaboratively develop and use a longitudinal evidence base for transformation, innovation and quality assurance of curriculum.

“The joint leadership provided for this institute explains why, what and how scholarship can be undertaken for a whole curriculum and provides practical opportunities to apply the Curriculum Evaluation Research (CER) framework and adapt the resources to a local context.”


The strategy for embedding outputs and achieving impact has been articulated using the Impact Management Planning and Evaluation Ladder (IMPEL) framework (Hinton, 2014) for the 12-month timeframe of the project and the 2-5 years following. Key measurements of impact in year 1 include: Good Practice examples originating from Quality Improvement (QI) activities can be published as an Internal Newsletter, on the CER – STEM website or form the basis of a conference paper or poster.

Evidence collected through the QI cycle can be used to inform Quality Assurance (QA) against standards, including the external benchmarking against other providers that occurs on at least a 5-yearly cycle (TEQSA). Thus, QA is likely to be planned during the fellowship for future application in the next QA reporting cycle. Evidence collected through the QI and QA activities by the teaching teams that leads to generalisable outcomes for the STEM sector can be prepared for publication in a journal article or conference proceedings. We propose to leverage new internal funding in the College of Sciences and Engineering at the University of Tasmania for teaching development seed projects in the home institution. We will co-edit a special issue of the International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IJISME), to give partner-participating institutions an opportunity to contribute relevant scholarship.


Fields, J., Kenny, N.A. & Mueller, R.A. (2019): Conceptualizing educational leadership in an academic development program, International Journal for Academic Development, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2019.1570211

Hinton, T. (2014). The Impact Management Planning and Evaluation Ladder (IMPEL). Department of Education, Available:

Kelder, J., & Carr, A. (2017): Embedding evaluation and scholarship into curriculum and Teaching: The curriculum evaluation research framework. In A Hørsted, P. Bartholomew, J. Branch & C. Nygaard (eds), New Innovations in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2017 (pp. 430-451). Faringdon, UK: Libri Publishing.

TEQSA. (2018). Guidance Note: Scholarship (Version 2.5_2, 12 December 2018).Canberra, Australia: Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Available:


Headshot of Tina Acuna and JoAnne Kelder

Associate Professor Tina Acuna and Dr. Jo-Anne Kelder are the joint Australian Council of Deans of Science Fellows for 2019.

Tina led the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) funded national Learning and Teaching Academic Standards for Agriculture (AgLTAS) project from 2013-15.

Jo led the OLT funded Peer Assisted Teaching Scheme extension grant and was a co-investigator in the AgLTAS project. She is a Senior Editor for the Journal of University Learning and Teaching Practice.

Tina was recipient of an Australian Award for University Teaching: Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2016. Jo was recognised in University of Tasmania awards (three team awards, 2014; individual 2017).


Tina’s current role is Associate Dean Learning and Teaching in the College of Sciences and Engineering at University of Tasmania. Jo’s current role is Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Development and Innovation in the Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching at the University of Tasmania.



Higher Education Research and Development Society Australasia (HERDSA)
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL)