Core Knowledge


Under the Professional Standards Framework (PSF), The “Ks” are your Core Knowledge. This is the knowledge you need to carry about your teaching activities. There are six components of Core Knowledge (K1K6) and these are to be referenced throughout your reflective narrative through annotations. Associate Fellows of the HEA (AFHEA) need to ensure they evidence K1 and K2, while Fellows (FHEA), Senior Fellows (SFHEA) and Principal Fellows (PFHEA) need to reference all six Ks.

Ks - K1. The subject material. K2. Appropriate methods for teaching, learning and assessing in the subject area and at the level of the academic program. K3. How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s). K4. The use and value of appropriate learning technologies. K5. Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching. K6. The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching.

You will find it easiest to demonstrate your understanding of Core Knowledge as you talk about your experience of different Areas of Activity. For example, when you are reflecting on designing and planning a learning activity (A1), you would probably want to refer to the importance and relevance of your subject knowledge (K1) and your use of discipline-appropriate teaching and learning methods (K2). Similarly, when you are talking about your teaching activities (A2), you would probably be referring also to your understanding of how students learn differently and specifically in different contexts (K3) and the use of appropriate learning technologies (K4).

Let’s go through all the kinds of Core Knowledge.


K1  The subject material

This relates to how well you know the material you are teaching as knowledge of the subject/discipline is important to the design and planning of learning activities and programmes of study, as well as the associated teaching, assessment and feedback strategies. For those in learning support areas, think about your “subject” as the nature of the “service” you provide, e.g. study skills support, information management, learning technologies etc.

For example:

Since 2014, I have taught a section of the course xxxx. I have much experience with this course and material having taken it as a student in 2006, served as a laboratory demonstrator for 2007-2011, and undertaken a PhD (2008-2011) and three postdocs (2012-present) working in a related field (K1).

K1 is not just about knowing your discipline, but understanding that it is relevant in the context of the kind of students you teach and where the learning, teaching activities and learning support happens. To show your K1 knowledge, you are expected to demonstrate:

  • an up to date knowledge of the subject area to which you teach (which often comes form your previous study and professional experienced, linked to A5 and V3); and
  • an awareness of scholarship, and possibly research (if appropriate to your role) relating to the particular subject, which in turn informs the curriculum/program of study.

How can you demonstrate this? 

In discussing your practice, try to show how your subject knowledge links to the teaching methods, course design and assessment/feedback approaches. This may include discipline-specific contexts related to skills such as digital literacy, employability, specific learning needs or practical skills, such as health and safety within laboratories. Examples might include:

  • applying knowledge from your professional practice, postgraduate studies or research;
  • your awareness and implementation of up-to-date subject knowledge;
  • your contribution to the development of subject resources;
  • directing staff activities and development of discipline research;
  • contributing to professional body accreditation.


K2  Appropriate methods for teaching and learning in the subject area and at the level of the academic program

K2 is about the distinctive methods for teaching or supporting learning in your subject area, acknowledging that some approaches are more appropriate than others given the nature of the learning desired, the level of the material being taught and the readiness and learning stage of students. For example:

I found out in early lessons that sharing and responding to ideas and discussion can only happen when students have a certain minimum level of knowledge, which could not be expected in a beginners’ class. Therefore, to promote active learning, I had to provide scaffolding appropriate for each student (K2).

How can you demonstrate this? 

What is your rationale, underpinned by scholarship, for your approach to teaching in your discipline, and how do you show evidence of its effectiveness? For example, you might explain your rationale for the use of group work in tutorials in your subject, or why demonstrations are an important element of teaching your subject. K2 is often linked to both K1 and K3, specifically concerned with the strategies and approaches used to teach or support the learning of the subject. You should also refer to the challenges encountered by different groups or types of learners and indicate how you are able to adapt accordingly. Examples of K2 might include discussion of your experiences of appropriate use of group work; lab-based teaching; workshops; or problem-based learning.


K3  How students learn, both generally, and within their disciplinary area

K3 is related to your knowledge of how students learn, in general and within the context of their subject/discipline. You will need to demonstrate your understanding of the characteristics of different learners (such as mature students, recent school leavers or workplace learners) and how you meet their needs through the teaching and supporting learning approaches and the learning environment.

In this situation, I will often prompt the student to think about things that prompt ion movement before giving them the answer. This is to give them an opportunity to develop their own ideas behind certain concepts (K3).

You will also need to show how you adapt and change your practices and approaches in response to the specific characteristics of your subject (related to K1). Reference could be made to different theories of, or approaches to, learning and how you use these to develop subject-specific strategies for teaching and supporting learning (also related to K2).

How can you demonstrate this? 

You need to describe, and reflect on, the characteristics and diversity of the learner cohort with whom you are involved, ideally with reference to scholarship and inclusive teaching practices so that you demonstrate a scholarly understanding of the particular theoretical models which underpin your practice.

For example, you might describe your experiences in relation to:

  • using dedicated group study spaces to enhance learning;
  • using simulations in your teaching;
  • how increasing the level of interaction and participation in teaching sessions impacts on learning;
  • your sensitivity to the varied learning styles of students.


K4  The use and value of appropriate learning technologies

K4 explains your knowledge and use of learning technologies. These are many and varied, and typically you are expected to go beyond describing a basic use of PowerPoint and a virtual learning environment. In many instances the use of learning technologies will be highly subject or context specific, so your rationale for using specific learning technologies needs to be clearly articulated.

… students are strongly encouraged to put their general and assignment questions on Wattle for discussion among peers and myself. I encourage this, as it promotes peer interaction, and also gives a chance for those who are reticent to speak up in class to have an input (K4).

How can you demonstrate this? 

Your evidence for K4 should demonstrate your experience around aspects such as:

  • how and why you use technologies to support learning;
  • exactly how you use these technologies (including assistive technologies and/or related reasonable adjustments);
  • how the needs of learners with disabilities are accommodated in light of the institution’s responsibilities;
  • relevance of the technologies you use in the context of the subject or discipline;
  • the impact on student learning; and
  • how you have evaluated the impact on learning that occurs because you are using technologies.

Specific examples might include:

  • your use of social media to support students;
  • how you design and provide online tutorials;
  • your use of video capture software;
  • how you support online learning and information management.

You might also like to read the digital lens on the PSF.


K5  Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching

An essential part of higher education is ensuring the effectiveness of teaching practices., so K5 is concerned with the ways you gather information about the success of your teaching, assessment and feedback in enabling students to meet the intended outcomes. Your evidence for K5 should focus on the ways you use different approaches (formal and/or informal) to gather information and data about the impact of teaching, and how this is used to enhance and develop teaching and learning support practice.

It has always been part of my teaching practice to conduct mid-semester in-class surveys, to give me a snapshot of what students are enjoying, not enjoying, and to identify any gaps in their knowledge. In 2014, the survey results overwhelmingly suggested that… (K5)

How can you demonstrate this? 

You should consider the different ways you gain feedback about your teaching, both formally and informally. This will usually be from students but can also be from peers/colleagues and other sources, and can include formal evaluation processes, such as information gathered at the end of a course (SELT). There may also be examples of where you have used other sources of information to analyse and, as a consequence, change your approaches/practices. This might include:

  • student performance;
  • responses to student feedback;
  • learning gained from peer review/observation;
  • changes made on the basis of your personal reflections on practice;
  • using information from external evaluation or review to critically analyse your practice and make desired changes.

Evaluation is a continuous cycle, and you should show this in your narrative, by describing how your process of reflection on practice has led to changes and enhancement. For example, you might describe evaluation based on:

  • peer observation of teaching;
  • using Wattle data to enhance your learning and teaching practice;
  • involvement in validation, course approval, external benchmarking or professional accreditation mechanisms; or
  • formalising feedback mechanisms and analysis of results.


K6  The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching

K6 is about demonstrating awareness of the implications of providing high quality teaching. While this is possibly one of the hardest kinds of Core Knowledge to articulate, you should try to demonstrate that as a teacher or supporter of learning you do not ‘exist in a bubble’ and that you are responsible to external imperatives (for example, institutional quality assurance, professional bodies) and that you can demonstrate that you work towards improving practice in this context.

Quality assurance and quality enhancement are deeply embedded in higher education through procedures such as program (degree) and course validation, monitoring, review, benchmarking and examiner boards. These processes shape academic practice and are implicit in what you do as a teacher or in your support of learning. Critical to K6 is your awareness of formal quality assurance and quality enhancement processes and requirements, such as the need to work within institutional frameworks and professional and statutory body requirements. Foundations module F1 would be a good starting point if you don’t know much about the higher education infrastructure of Australia or ANU.

Students from my group have gone on to jobs in industry, academia, government and education. I am proud that they have learned skills to follow these careers and I feel that this is measure of the quality of their education (K6).

How can you demonstrate that you have this knowledge? 

There are many ways in which you can do this. Keep in mind that Senior Fellow applicants are expected to know a lot more about this than Associate Fellow applicants. You should consider:

  • how you are encouraged to use feedback from quality assurance and enhancement activities or processes to improve your practice and the student learning experience;
  • how you seek opportunities to obtain feedback, other than relying on the institutional procedures already in place, to develop your teaching and support activities;
  • how you understand and respond to the higher education regulations and the need to continually enhance the student learning experience;
  • how you use national evidence frameworks (such as the Australian Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching – QILT – to understand how ANU teaching in your discipline is rated nationally.

You may also think about evidencing your personal interest in, understanding of, and commitment to quality assurance and enhancement procedures, and how these are established and embedded within your practice. This would typically include evidence of a knowledge and understanding of the quality assurance frameworks at a national level and how these are manifested (at the appropriate level and context) in your work.

Quality assurance and enhancement is implicit within the academic infrastructure and links directly to:

  • A1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study.
  • A2: Teach and/or support learning.
  • A3: Assess and give feedback to learners.

Adherence to policy and practice in ensuring equality and transparency/fairness links to:

  • V1: Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities.
  • V2: Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners.
  • V4: Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice.

Some engagement with formal processes and commentary on how these have shaped practice will demonstrate that you are not merely adopting a tick box approach but show your understanding of how assurance and enhancement is applied, its impact and why it is important to the student experience and wider context.

For staff in support roles, quality assurance and quality enhancement might relate to the development of in-house quality processes relating to relevant professional practice. You might be acquiring K6 knowledge when you are involved in:

  • periodic curriculum or course review teams;
  • working with aligned professional bodies;
  • quality assurance of learning resources to ensure they support teaching effectively;
  • staff development;
  • development of College/School assessment policies;
  • conducting reviews for a professional body;
  • sitting on validation panel(s) to provide information of how learning resources and student support contribute to the quality of the student experience;
  • peer-observation to enhance teaching quality;
  • obtaining feedback from external examining, moderation into practice.

As - A1. Design and plan learning activities and/or programs of study. A2. Teach and/or support learning. A3. Assess and give feedback to learners. A4. Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance. A5. Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices. Ks - K1. The subject material. K2. Appropriate methods for teaching, learning and assessing in the subject area and at the level of the academic program. K3. How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s). K4. The use and value of appropriate learning technologies. K5. Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching. K6. The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching. Vs - V1. Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities. V2. Promote participation in higher education and quality of opportunity for learners. V3. Use evidence-informed approaches and the outcomes from research, scholarship and continuing professional development. V4. Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice.