Developing a Learning Culture: A Framework for the Growth of Teaching Expertise

The Development of Teaching Expertise

By: Nancy Chick, Natasha Kenny, Carol Berenson, Carol Johnson, David Keegan, Emma Read, Leslie Reid

Many postsecondary institutions have started to explore what it means to develop and demonstrate teaching expertise, recognizing not only the complexities of teaching and of documenting the experiences of teaching, but also that teaching expertise is developed through a learning process that continues over time (Hendry & Dean, 2002; Kreber, 2002). Our framework (see below graphic) for this growth of teaching expertise draws from the scholarly literature related to postsecondary teaching and learning to demonstrate that teaching expertise involves multiple facets, habits of mind (or ways of knowing and being), and possible developmental activities.

Teaching Expertise Framework Graphic
Figure 1: Conceptualization of a framework for the development of teaching expertise

The Structure of the Framework

Our framework (Figure 1) introduces three foundational habits of mindinclusive, learning-centered, and collaborative ways of knowing and being—that ground five interwoven and non-hierarchical facets of teaching expertise:

  • teaching and supporting learning,
  • professional learning and development,
  • mentorship,
  • research, scholarship, and inquiry, and
  • educational leadership.

Within each facet are possible activities that reflect a developmental continuum from explore, to engage, to expand, demonstrating a shift from the growth of oneself within a local context toward contributing to the growth of others and creating processes and resources for the broader teaching and learning community (see table, pp. 5-7 in the complete pdf document or editable word document).

Although the table is useful for identifying details within the framework, we acknowledge that the image of a table suggests linear movement, hierarchies, and fixed borders, so we look to Figure 1 as the more precise visual to demonstrate that:

  • activities within each facet and across the continuum are fluid and iterative because the development of teaching expertise is recursive and context dependent, and
  • there is no single entrypoint into the framework, as instructors move across the facets and back and forth in the continuum throughout their careers.

The Intention & Possible Uses of the Framework

This framework is “written in pencil” in that it is meant to be shared, adapted, and used according to the needs of local contexts. The intention is to provide a scholarly framework for recognizing the breadth of characteristics involved in the development of teaching expertise in postsecondary contexts across all career stages.  We envision a variety of uses of the framework, such as the following:

  • As a framework for understanding, it will guide the academic community in finding meaning in the everyday activities that make up the growth of teaching expertise.
  • As a framework for self-reflection, it will help instructors—faculty, sessional instructors, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students—identify and communicate their strengths, and pursue particular aspects of their teaching for further development.
  • As a framework for dialogue, it will help peers and critical friends facilitate their ongoing growth through significant conversations about teaching and learning (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009).
  • As a framework for facilitating future-oriented conversations, it will help department heads and other campus leaders nurture individual instructors and contribute to teaching and learning cultures across postsecondary education.


Hendry, G.D. & Dean, S.J. 2002.  Accountability, evaluation and teaching expertise in higher education.  International Journal of Academic Development, 7(1), 75-82.

Kreber, C. (2002). Teaching excellence, teaching expertise, and the scholarship of teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 27(1), 5-23.

Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks–exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 547-559.


We would like to thank Jessica Snow and Ykje Piera for their contributions in conceptualizing and creating the graphic for the teaching expertise framework.

How might you use and adapt this framework in your local context?  Please share your comments below.


  1. thank you for this Nancy and colleagues! Having developed a Preparing Future Faculty program at my institution, I am now moving forward to integrate faculty professional development as part of a movement toward a more learning focused institution. This is SO timely! I’d be interested in how others granulate each of the categories – what sub-categories and/or processes and institutional structures might be part of each category?

  2. I have a mandate from the Provost’s Office here at the University of Windsor to work with mid-career faculty who may need to be energized, refresh, seek new directions, rebound from set-backs. I would like to dialogue with you on this matter. How might your framework help me out with my mandate as mentioned above? How might it be targeted to folks who just may need to reframe their careers through a change in teaching, research and service? Thanks, in anticipation, for your response.

    • Hi, Alan. Ah, what an important task. I can imagine some self-reflection on where they see themselves in their trajectory (not to mention if they even see a trajectory and what it looks like), identifying what’s missing and where they might want to go, etc. But from my own experience awhile back, I recall thinking that taking stock was essential, so I could see what I lacked and what I wanted, as it wasn’t immediately obvious to me during the daily grind. We’d love to chat with you about possibilities, if you like.

    • I agree with Nancy Alan! The framework would provide a great start for helping faculty identify where they most see themselves now, and where they would most like to continue to grow and develop as an instructor or how they would most like to contribute to creating a positive teaching and learning culture considering these multiple facets of teaching expertise. Leslie Reid one of the framework’s co-authors imaged coaching questions to support the framework such as:

      What would you like to accomplish in your teaching practice? What outcome would be ideal? Why is this meaningful to you? What is getting in the way? What supports or resources do you need to meet your teaching goals?

  3. I am wondering how and if you have been in contact with Education departments who focus on this. Much of my experience from a B.Ed , M.Ed experience has led me to higher education contexts. There is much wisdom there.

    • Hi, Emma. One of the authors of the framework (Carol Johnson) was from the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education–now at the University of Melbourne. We were very intentional about ensuring that the wisdom of Education was represented on the multidisciplinary team, and certainly well represented in the lit review. Nancy

  4. I am wondering how and if you have been in contact with Education departments who focus on this. Much of my experience from a B.Ed , M.Ed experience has led me to higher education contexts. There is much wisdom there.

  5. Nancy and colleagues, thank you for sharing. I am working in Health Professions Education and I am definitely going to take some time to explore your framework and each facet within the framework to see how we can use this to frame the professional development of our faculty within their different career stages. Will keep in touch. Kind regards.

    • Hi Yolande,

      We look forward to hearing more about how you use the framework to help frame professional learning and development for faculty. We see much potential to use this across career stages (from graduate student to experienced professors), and look forward to learning from others how it has been useful for them. Natasha

  6. What a tremendous organizing framework for a dossier!! Nicely put together! I very much appreciated both the short version (above) and being able to read the slightly longer document outlining your thinking process – what a marvellous contribution to the field!

  7. Thank you Nicola! It was a fantastic collaborative process. We are eager to hear how others share, use and adapt it within their context. One very practical use we have found lately is using it as a reference point for those creating a teaching dossier or teaching award nomination dossier. It provides a valuable framework to have instructors and nominees reflect upon and articulate their contributions across multiple facets of their teaching practice.

  8. I agree with Nicola that this framework will be of great benefit to those developing teaching dossiers. I work with graduate students, and I will be pointing them to the longer version to provide examples of language they can use to describe the ways in which they have already begun to ‘explore’ and ‘engage’ (love those verbs!) in postsecondary teaching. The descriptions are rich and broad, and I think they will help to expand our conversations about what ‘counts’ as developing teaching expertise.

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