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Foundations programs: Models that work

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 17:33 authored by Natalie BrownNatalie Brown, Smigiel, H

Programs that introduce academic staff to learning and teaching in Higher Education are now well established in many countries. In Australia they are becoming more systematised to respond to the professionalism of university learning and teaching and a growing regard to quality assurance. This paper outlines a project where a range of typical models of Foundations programs were described and, with the assistance of a stakeholder group, the characteristics of the models that promoted effectiveness and efficiency were identified. This work was a sub-project of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council grant, Preparing Academics to Teach in Higher Education (PATHE).

In the initial phase, existing data about Australian Foundation programs was analysed to identify characteristics that could be used in describing different models. The second phase employed a multi-stage methodology: identification of successful Foundation programs that represented elements of the model; writing case studies of good practice and; consideration of the characteristics of effective programs by a stakeholder group (senior management, senior and early career academics, academic developers and students).

A visual representation identifying key elements of different models was developed: philosophical approach underpinned the intersecting areas of curriculum (content and activities), mode of delivery (face-to-face, on-line, intensive or stretched and policy requirements).

Using these elements and through conducting interviews, five good practice case studies were written to describe the range of practice in the Australian HE sector. A clear picture emerged of how institutional philosophy and context influenced the structure, content and delivery patterns of programs. Additionally, the predominance of mandatory programs reflected a growing emphasis on the importance of quality teaching. The cases also demonstrated how the four key themes of successful programs, as identified by the stakeholder group, could be translated into practice. These themes were: Embedding a student centred approach; Encouraging a scholarly approach to teaching; Building networks and relationships and; Orienting staff to their institutional context. A noteworthy observation in terms of effectiveness and efficiency was that of flexibility.

The five case studies give insight into the range of Foundation programs across Australia, allow sharing of practice and, provide models for benchmarking purposes. Recognising that these programs have multiple purposes, the insights gained from the stakeholder group, have provided four thematic touchstones for the design and evaluation of Foundation programs. The benefits of allowing for reflection, building of learning communities amongst the participants and, providing opportunities for negotiation and content to take into account individual contexts and experience were clearly identified. Importantly, it was noted that there was a strong connection between completion of Foundation programs and personal and institutional success in learning and teaching.


Publication title

9th ICED Conference 2012 Program


The International Consortium for Educational Development




DVC - Education


International Consortium for Educational Development

Place of publication

Bangkok, Thailand

Event title

International Consortium for Educational Development: Across the Globe Higher Education Learning and Teaching

Event Venue

Bangkok, Thailand

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

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Schools and learning environments not elsewhere classified

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