Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Dimensions of Teaching

The following nine Dimensions of Teaching should inform the process of peer observation of teaching. In a teaching session, it is unlikely that a teacher would demonstrate all nine dimensions and teaching strategies. Some teachers may use a few selected dimensions and strategies while others may use alternative dimensions and strategies suited to their discipline and/or students.

The dimensions of teaching are provided as a broad guide only while the strategies outlined are an attempt to illustrate the types of teaching behaviours judged to relate to, and enhance, the respective dimensions of teaching observed, and do not represent a list of required practices. The nine dimensions of teaching are not independent; inevitably there is overlap across different dimensions. The dimensions largely reflect the “traditional” lecture/tutorial presentation format adopted by many academic staff.

Other dimensions may be added/substituted to adjust to different teaching settings and styles, such as online teaching, small-group or problem-based learning sessions. What is essential during the observed teaching session is the effective demonstration of a planned approach to teaching using dimensions and strategies that have been identified in the pre-observation meeting.

Click on the headings below to learn more about each dimension.

Dimension 1: Students are actively engaged in learning
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • fostering a supportive, non-threatening teaching/learning environment
  • encouraging students to express views, ask and answer questions, and allow time and opportunity for this to occur
  • using questioning skills which encourage student engagement
  • providing immediate and constructive feedback where appropriate
  • demonstrating enthusiasm for teaching and learning
  • (for smaller groups) fostering extensive interaction
  • (for very large groups) presenting in such a manner as to achieve maximum engagement
Dimension 2: Students' prior knowledge and experience is built upon 
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • being fully aware of and/or determining students' prior knowledge and understanding
  • building on students' current knowledge and understanding, and taking them conceptually beyond this level
  • where appropriate, using and building upon student contributions and preparation
Dimension 3: Teaching caters for student diversity
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • demonstrating an appreciation of the different levels of knowledge and understanding in a group
  • addressing, as appropriate, different learning needs and styles within the group
  • focussing on building confidence, enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation
  • fostering students' responsibility for their own learning, encouraging them towards being self-directed learners, (as distinct from teacher-directed learners)
  • using appropriate strategies for different needs, balancing discursive interactive strategies with those that are more didactic (where simple transmission of knowledge is needed)
  • recognising, at times, the need for teacher-directed strategies such as explaining, and being able to implement these effectively
  • exercising balance between challenging and supporting students
  • designing activities/tasks that allow students of differing abilities to participate/engage and demonstrate/enhance their learning
  • providing examples or opportunities for discussion that cater for cultural diversity
Dimension 4: Students are aware of key learning outcomes
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • ensuring students are progressively aware of key learning outcomes
  • focussing on learning outcomes at key points in the presentation
  • ensuring a synthesis of key learning outcomes is emphasised towards the conclusion of the session so that individual student follow-up work is well focussed
  • encouraging each student to accept responsibility for learning issues to follow-up and consolidate
  • ensuring students are aware of the link between key learning outcomes and assessment (formative and summative), as appropriate
Dimension 5: Students are encouraged to develop/expand their conceptual understanding
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • helping students bridge the gap between their current conceptual understanding and the next "level"
  • helping students become aware of what the next levels are
  • encouraging students to become self- directed learners by using the "lecture"/presentation as the stimulus for individual study/learning
  • challenging students intellectually e. g. by extending them with question/answer/discussion components where students' conclusions must be justified to the teacher and peers. This usually involves questions such as "What do you think is going on"; "Why"; "What if...?" etc.
  • encouraging students to internalise or "construct " their individual conceptual understanding (ultimately the learner must be responsible for his/her own learning)
  • encouraging deep (intrinsic) rather than surface (extrinsic) approaches to learning
  • working cooperatively with students to help them enhance understanding
  • clearly demonstrating a thorough command of the subject matter
Dimension 6: Actively uses links between research and teaching
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • emphasising, where appropriate, links between research outcomes and learning
  • using research links appropriately, given the level of student conceptual development
  • raising students' awareness of what constitutes research
Dimension 7: Uses educational resources and techniques appropriately
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • using IT techniques effectively, e. g. PowerPoint or multimedia presentations of a professional standard
  • using, as appropriate, a balance of IT and other strategies
  • using available classroom resources to support student learning effectively
  • supplying resources, materials and literature to support student learning
  • using specific educational strategies and techniques in the design and delivery of teaching sessions, to achieve key objectives
Dimension 8: Presents material logically
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • providing an early brief structural overview of the session
  • developing this structure in a coherent manner, ensuring students are constantly aware of the development of the session
  • providing time for reviewing at key stages, including closure
  • establishing closure, aiming at helping students draw together and understand major issues and identify individual learning needs and short-comings
Dimension 9: Seeks feedback on students' understanding and acts on this accordingly
Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:
  • seeking feedback progressively during the session e. g. through constant observation of interest level and engagement and by using specific questions to test understanding
  • modifying the presentation to accommodate feedback messages
  • seeking feedback towards the conclusion of the session to assist student to determine individual work to be consolidated

Adapted from: Crisp, G. et al (2009) Peer Review of Teaching for Promotion Purposes: a project to develop and implement a pilot program of external Peer Review of Teaching at four Australian universities, University of Adelaide, an ALTC-funded project, 2007-8. Final Project Report June 2009.  Thanks to RMIT and UNSW.