Learning Leadership - key strategies

Change doesn’t just happen but must be led, and deftly’

Key question addressed in this section

  • How can I best improve my capabilities as a local hange leader?

List out what forms of learning, support and the sorts of people have been most helpful in building your capability as a learning and teaching leader in higher education. Compare your views with those of the experienced leaders involed in the OLT leadership research below. 

Box 19 summarises the findings from the participants in the Learning Leaders study on the learning strategies and resources they find most helpful in developing their capability as a leader. These were confirmed during the Fellowship workshops.

Box Nineteen

Learning Leadership

(top 10 strategies in rank order on reported effectivieness)

1. Learning ‘on the job’ with a framework to make sense of experience

2. Ad hoc conversations about work with people in similar roles

3. Informal mentoring and coaching

4. Participating in peer networks within the university

5. Completing a relevant tertiary qualification (13) (13)

6. Study of ‘real life’ workplace problems

7. Attending learning & teaching conferences (18) (18)

8. Participating in peer networks beyond the university

9. Undertaking self-guided reading on leadership

10. Participating in higher education leadership seminars

(Head of School/Dean ranking that is significantly different from Head of Program)

(Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Pro Vice-Chancellor ranking that is significantly different from Head of Program)


The key learning priorities for the local learning and teaching leaders in this research focused on how best to:

  • Successfully implement new initiatives;
  • Establish a collegial working environment;
  • Bring innovative policies and practices into action;
  • Produce significant improvements in L&T quality;
  • Improve student satisfaction ratings.

These learning priorities align with the key success indicators identified by these leaders.

In the feedback from the Fellowship workshops the key priorities for assisting both leaders and local staff engage with the assuring achievement standards and assessment quality agenda were to:

  • Develop and circulate this role-specific, online self-teaching guide to everyone who participated in the Fellowship for review, enhancement, day-to-day use and sharing with other leaders;
  • Develop a searchable ‘one stop shop’ that brings together multiple web-sites, allows online confidential peer feedback and lists good practice tips on the six ‘keys’ – a prototype of this ‘one stop assessment shop’ is currently being tested in a partnership between the University of Tasmania, Higher Education Services and Education Services Australia;
  • Undertake capacity-building workshops for local leaders that both use and enhance the role-specific learning guides, using the slides used in the national workshops as a resource. 

Specific suggestions made during the workshops on how best to optimise staff learning support to assist the effective implementation of the achievement standards and assessment agenda include:

  • Local leaders identifying proven ways of addressing aspects of the ‘six keys’ assessment quality framework, acknowledging these and supporting them being loaded into the searchable national clearing house on HE assessment; then personally alerting their staff to what is on the database and how to use it to improve the quality and success of what they do.
  • Giving particular attention to sessional staff – suggestions on how best to engage and support sessional staff included.
    • Inviting the most experienced and effective sessional staff to write a sessional staff guide based on their own experiences on effective approaches to assuring achievement standards and the quality of assessment;
    • Producing assessment-focused learning guides for students in every unit of study which start with the outcomes to be achieved, then the assessment and exemplars of how grading works followed by an outline of the learning activities and resources built into the unit that will enable them to succeed on these assessment tasks. And then requiring that all staff, including sessional staff, take students through the guide in the first teaching class. It would be in this way, said Fellowship participants, that sessional staff will be helped to learn how assessment in their unit of study works by having to teach it.
  • Drawing upon the good practice lessons for this area identified in earlier OLT projects – for example alerting staff involved in reviewing the validity of program level outcomes against multiple reference points to the good practice guidelines identified in the Krause et al (2014) project on inter-university peer moderation; alerting staff interested in effective approaches to calibration to the Hancock and Freeman (2014) Achievement matters: external peer review of accounting standards project; and staff interested in the use of assessment for learning to the guidelines emerging from the David Boud’s 2010 OLT senior teaching Fellowship.
  • Running local training programs with A/Deans, Heads of Program, and ‘go-to’ Learning and Teaching support staff on how best to populate and use the proposed clearing house on assuring achievement standards and assessment quality effectively. This, said workshop participants, is an important step as it will be through personal, local contact with such people that line staff will engage with this learning resource and good practice can be located.
  • Identifying more exemplars from around the world of how to use dilemma-based, sustainability-focused and invention-based assessment tasks most productively and scalably as part of the overall learning program in different Fields of Education. In doing this, Fellowship participants suggested giving particular focus to identifying highly rating and productive ways of using recent developments in interactive IT for dilemma, simulation and invention based assessment.
  • Undertaking a stocktake of assessment tools that give focus to ‘mindfulness’ and the valid measurement of developments in those key personal and interpersonal capabilities identified as being so important for successful early career performance in all professions and disciplines and in the development of graduates who are work ready plus.
  • Producing this guide as an interactive, searchable website to foster more convenient access to the key lessons identified by participants in the Fellowship.
  • Producing a ‘do it yourself’ booklet on how to undertake studies of successful early career graduates in different professions and use the results as an additional reference point for validating and updating program level outcomes. It was suggested that a similar booklet on how to use the graduate and professional capability items validated in earlier studies with employers and the professions could also be produced.
  • Identifying and disseminating exemplars of high rating assessment-focused learning guides and coaching staff on how best to develop and use them.
  • Undertaking and sharing the results of a stocktake of effective ways to engage politicians and senior sector leaders with the policy formation process around the work ready plus agenda.