Skip to content Exit mobile menu

[1] Keynote: Developing Expertise for Teaching in Higher Education


  • Dr Helen King, Deputy Director of Academic Practice at the University of West England.


‘Excellence’ is an important rhetoric in higher education and many other sectors, but it is poorly defined in terms of the characteristics of an individual teacher. Furthermore, by definition, excellence is a characteristic achievable by only a few (we can’t all be outstanding), and is often measured by outputs (e.g. student satisfaction or graduate outcomes). The goal of excellence, therefore, is not a strong motivator for individuals to improve their teaching nor a helpful guide for those supporting them in doing so. Conversely, ‘expertise’ has a deep and broad theoretical and empirical foundation in a wide variety of professions, and offers a fresh approach to considering the characteristics of high-performing practitioners. The acquisition and maintenance of expertise is an ongoing process that is potentially available for all to engage with, rather than a static point to be reached by the few. This presentation will briefly outline the generic characteristics of expertise and then discuss what these might look like for teaching in higher education. The model presented is based on Helen’s empirical research, personal experience of educational development and extensive discussions with colleagues in the sector through workshops and conferences. It proposes three overlapping elements of expertise: Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Artistry of Teaching, and Intentional Learning & Development. These elements will be discussed along with the implications for teachers and educational development.


Dr Helen King’s career in educational development spans over two decades and has included leading roles in UK-wide learning and teaching enhancement projects and organisations, as an independent consultant collaborating with colleagues in the UK, USA and Australia, and institutional roles (currently, Deputy Director of Academic Practice at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK). She has broad interests across a range of learning, teaching and assessment themes but her particular passion is in supporting colleagues’ professional development. Her current research is exploring the characteristics of expertise in higher education teachers. She holds a Senior Fellowship of the Staff & Educational Development Association (SFSEDA), a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF), is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), and Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland.