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Research & Projects » Projects » Investigating Quality Teaching in the Victorian VET Sector

Investigating Quality Teaching in the Victorian VET Sector

Project status: Current

The LH Martin Institute and the Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy at Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne are undertaking a study into what is quality teaching and to identify the capabilities vocational education and training (VET) teachers need to support effective student learning.The project is funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) and brings together a team of experienced researchers, a subject matter expert panel of leading VET practitioners, and a high-level VET Industry Steering Group (VISG) comprised of project, department and industry representatives and key industry stakeholders.


The aim of the project is to develop a framework that describes how VET teachers typically progress from novice to expert. Such a framework will inform the design and delivery of professional development programs for the VET teaching workforce in Victoria. The research project also specifies and seeks clarification on the following questions.

1. What are the key capabilities that quality VET teachers’ exhibit?

2. Do the key capabilities differ between qualifications, occupations or industry areas?

3. Do the key capabilities differ depending on the learning style and characteristics of the student?

4. What teaching practices demonstrate these capabilities?

5. What is the best way for teachers to develop the identified capabilities?

6. What are the key challenges and obstacles to developing the identified capabilities?

7. What is the relative impact of RTO organisational practices on VET teaching quality?

8. What is the relative impact of teachers’ characteristics (e.g. qualification levels, work experience) on VET teaching quality?

9. What are examples of ‘best practice’ teaching methods and practices in VET?

10. What is the impact of quality VET teaching on student outcomes?

The research will produce a developmental learning framework for the VET teaching profession using methods that have been well-tested in other educational settings, and the model will distinguish between levels of VET teacher proficiency from novice to expert and will be underpinned by relevant learning theories. The process of developing the framework is designed to account for implementation issues and to maximise sector engagement. With the final report informing the government and the sector about what constitute high quality VET teaching, and providing advice and a tool for training providers to use in developing the capacity of their teaching staff.

Project phases

The project plan has three defined phases for project establishment, model development & validation, and reporting.

Phase 1 - Project Establishment is now complete. It included an extensive examination of national and international capability frameworks, and discussions with teachers, organisational development managers and students from across the VET sector.

Phase 2 - Model Development is currently in progress and will be completed by early 2016. In October 2015, focus group meetings were conducted with regional and metropolitan providers, TAFE, Learn Locals and ACPET members. In most meetings the providers also invited students to participate, and these students played an active and useful role in the discussions. Focus groups were held at the following educational sites:

  • Holmesglen Institute (14 October 2015)
  • Learn Local – Yarraville Community Centre (15 October 2015)
  • Sage Institute of Education (16 October 2015)
  • Sunraysia Institute of TAFE at Mildura (20 October 2015)
  • Wodonga Institute of TAFE (23 October 2015)

A focus group was also held with the Australian Education Union’s State-wide TAFE Committee on 23rd October 2015.

The discussion and feedback from these sessions has been very positive with considerable engagement with the key questions of the research, willingness to participate and support for the overall objectives. The advice from the focus group meetings will be used in the forthcoming formal workshop with the subject matter experts, which will drive the development of the draft capability framework. The development of the framework is focussed on the question of teaching, and what is often described as “visible learning” or a clinical model of teaching and the impact of teachers on student learning. Importantly the framework does not seek to address skills or capacities of what has been previously documented and considered in the wider context of a VET practitioner.

The next activities in Phase 2 include one-on-one interviews and observations with recognised expert teachers. Their practice and behaviours will be assessed against the draft capability model, and finally the capability model will be tested in a large and anonymous survey of teachers across the VET sector.

The findings and discussions to date show that teachers across the system are committed and professional , and have a great desire to improve their teaching skills for the benefit of students. The application of the model of visible learning is one that resonates with teachers and the need to have much greater clarity and an explicit understanding of what is great teaching, and how to develop those skills is one that is being warmly received.

Phase 3 - Reporting is expected to be completed by mid-2016.

Primary contacts

The project team welcomes contact from VET teachers who wish to participate in the next two phases of the research. To register your interest contact Dr Peter Bentley at

For all other matters, please contact LH Martin Institute Associate Director Associate Professor Ruth Schubert at

Project team

Associate Professor Ruth Schubert (principal researcher)
Associate Director, LH Martin Institute

Ruth Schubert joined the LH Martin Institute in 2014 as the Program Director, VET and has since been appointed Associate Director. Ruth was previously the Director, Business Transformation with TAFE SA, and was asked to take on the role at a critical mid-way point in the change process involving the three separate South Australian TAFE Institutes becoming one organisation under a statutory authority. The transformation involved the realignment of over 2,500 staffing positions, major business improvement projects, and management of internal and external consultants. The reinvention of TAFE SA as a statutory authority was an integral part of the Skills for All reforms.

Ruth has experience in private RTOs, the schooling sector, universities, and most recently 15 years in executive positions in TAFE Institutes. Ruth has had several stints as A/Managing Director, TAFE SA Regional. Ruth was instrumental in the process of TAFE SA Regional winning the State and National 2011 Large Training Provider of the year. Ruth’s considerable expertise in the Vocational and Training Sector includes executive education and corporate roles.

Ruth served as a member, then Deputy Chair and Chair for the Limestone Coast RDA Board for 5 years. Ruth has been a Director of the Stand like Stone Foundation since 2004, and now serves as Deputy Chair of the foundation. Ruth is an inaugural member of the Governor's Leadership Foundation, graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and was awarded a Premier’s Award for Postgraduate Research into Lifelong Learning 2001.

Ruth’s research interests are in leadership, social capital, building successful communities and the structure and positioning of the Tertiary Education sector. Ruth is currently leading two major research projects, the first profiling institutional diversity of vocational education providers across Australia, and the other investigating quality teaching in the Victorian VET sector.

Associate Professor Shelley Gillis
Associate Professor, Education Policy and Leadership, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Shelley Gillis is an Associate Professor of Education in the Education Policy and Leadership group in the MGSE, and has managed a range of research projects focussing on qualification frameworks and quality issues in vocational education and training, providing over 40 research reports for governments and non-government organisations. Shelley recently reviewed the independent validation of assessment pilot programs being undertaken within each jurisdiction for the commonwealth in an attempt to increase industry confidence in VET qualifications issued nationally. She is also leading the development and piloting of an external large scale assessment approach to validating high risk qualifications. Other recent projects include the empirical mapping of the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) to the OECD’s Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey ALLS) (funded by NVETRE), the establishment of a quality assurance framework for delivering Vocational Education and Training within 16 East Asia Summit countries (funded by DEEWR), as well as the empirical validation of the strengthened Australian Qualifications Framework using Item Response Theory (funded by the AQF Council). Shelley was also the chief investigator for a number of National Quality Council (NQC) funded projects on assessment validation, moderation and grading. Shelley has taught VET assessment related units of study at a range of universities (e.g. RMIT, LaTrobe, the University of Melbourne and Victoria University) and has coordinated VET teacher development degree programs at both the undergraduate and post graduate levels. Her Ph.D. examined factors influencing decision making processes in competency based assessments across both vocational education and industrial settings.

Dr Mary Leahy
Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Dr Mary Leahy is an academic in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. She is an experienced
researcher and highly effective teacher with an extensive background in education and training policy.

Her research focuses on access to education, training and employment. Specific interests include: pathways; the interface between education sectors; transitions within education and between education and employment; vocational education and training (VET); gender; the philosophical underpinnings of policy; Nussbaum and Sen’s capabilities approach; and theories on choice, preference formation and decision making.

Recent research projects include: post-school destinations of young people in NSW; mapping funding flows in the VET sector; assessing the feasibility of non-competency based qualifications; and investigating pathways within education and between education and employment. This and earlier research informs her teaching in the Master of Education Policy (International) (MEPI) and in the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching (GCTT) and supervision of research higher degree students.

Dr Suzanne North
Research Fellow, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Dr Suzanne North is a Research Fellow in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Suzanne has considerable experience in undertaking, analysing and reporting on the evaluation of national and state-wide education and training programs as well as expertise in the analysis and development of funding models.

Suzanne has a keen interest in widening access to, and participation in, post-secondary education through research that informs policy. A central focus of her research has been the systemic, policy and school-based conditions that perpetuate educational inequality for Australians facing disadvantage as well as the creation of new networks and partnerships that can build the capacity of schools and institutions in low socio-economic contexts.

She has expertise in quantitative analysis through primary data collections and working with large national datasets, most recently working with the NCVER National VET Provider Collection data, analysing factors influencing VET completion rates. Suzanne has conducted focus groups and interviews across Australia with students and staff in schools, TAFE institutes, ACE and private providers, including interviewing school principals in metropolitan and regional Victoria as part of an evaluation of the Student Resource Package in 2011. Suzanne has published and presented her work in Australia and overseas.

Dr Peter Bentley
Research Fellow, LH Martin Institute

Dr Peter Bentley is a Research Fellow at the LH martin Institute since 2011 and has worked on projects investigating the changing nature of the academic profession, institutional diversity within the university and vocational education sector, university finance and research benchmarking, and course redesign. Peter previously worked as a research associate at the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, and in treasury, industrial relations and resources policy in state/territory governments. He has also been an expert advisor to the European Commission. He recently completed his PhD at the University of Twente, and holds master degrees in higher education (Univ. Oslo, Tampere & Aveiro), administrative sciences (Tampere) and European Business Law & European Business (Lund), and bachelor degrees in commerce and arts (UWA).

Mr Chris Corbel
Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Chris Corbel is a Research Fellow in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Chris has a background as a general manager in education project management and professional development, most recently in a TAFE context. He is completing a PhD on the role of knowledge and skills in Australian VET policy. His research informs his teaching in the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching (GCTT), where he teaches the subjects Tertiary Teaching in Practice and Designing the Tertiary Curriculum.

Subject Matter Expert Panel

  • Shelley Gillis, University of Melbourne
  • Andrea Bateman, Bateman & Giles Pty Ltd
  • Hugh Guthrie, Victoria University
  • Chloe Dyson, Chloe Dyson & Associates
  • Helen Sonnleitner
  • Rosie Greenfield

VET Industry Steering Group

  • Leo Goedegebuure, Director, LH Martin Institute (Chair)
  • Shane Hellwege , Group Manager-Industry People & Capability, Dairy Australia
  • John Sheen, Education Manager, Wyndham Community and Education Centre Inc
  • Denise Stevens, CEO, VET Development Centre
  • Win Scott, CEO, Sunraysia Institute of TAFE
  • John Maddock, Senior Fellow, LH Martin Institute; Workforce Development & Global Education Services
  • Mary Faraone, CEO, Holmesglen Institute
  • Keri Bailey, Manager Compliance & Corporate Improvement, Holmesglen Institute
  • John King, Executive Director, Tertiary Education Policy and Strategic Projects Division, Higher Education and Skills Group
  • Andrew Williamson, Executive Director, Victorian TAFE Association
  • Neil Miller, National Policy & International Education Manager, ACPET
  • Carl Melkonian, VET Student Representative, RMIT University
  • Greg Barclay, Vice President for TAFE and adult provision, AEU
  • Ruth Schubert, Associate Director, LH Martin Institute
  • Peter Bentley, Research Fellow, LH Martin Institute (Ex Officer for VISG).

Reference documents

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