Professional learning for academics teaching first-year undergraduate students

Trudy Ambler*, Ian Solomonides, Andrew Smallridge, Trish McCluskey, Lynn Hannah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Professional learning is an essential component of the institutional conditions required for a high-quality first-year student experience. Initiatives to improve students’ determinative first year in higher education have expanded but one area notably absent in the literature pertains to professional learning tailored to meet the needs of academics teaching first-year students. The aims of this study were to explore what academics need to do and understand to effectively teach first-year students and design professional learning that would support them in their teaching role. Evidence-based practice was the methodology chosen for the project as this enabled relevant literature to inform academic practice. Findings from the study revealed that professional learning is intrinsic to being an academic. To be effective teachers and make a positive impact on first-year students’ learning necessitates that academics have an ability to draw on key knowledge, skills and attributes. However, these constructs are not finite and to be responsive to the evolving needs of students, professional learning for academics should be multi-faceted, ongoing and integral to everyday practice. Based on these findings two frameworks are presented that could be used by staff teaching first-year students to guide their professional learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-857
Number of pages13
JournalProfessional Development in Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020


  • professional learning
  • academics
  • first-year
  • undergraduate students
  • Professional learning


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