Principles of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education

Principles of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education

Applications for the May/June 2024 course are now closed.

Who is the course for?

The Centre for Academic Development offers a six-week CPD course for University of Aberdeen staff who support others to learn. The course is designed for postgraduate research students, early career researchers, new lecturers, teaching fellows as well as other, non-academic staff who:

  • are actively involved in teaching and have a current role in supporting the learning of others in the University of Aberdeen, and; 
  • have recent experience of supporting others to learn in UK higher education (or another sector, which the Centre is satisfied is substantially equivalent to UK higher education) for at least one academic year.

Examples of current/ previous teaching experience may include:  

  1. Lecturing
  2. Running tutorial sessions for undergraduate courses
  3. Demonstrating and supporting lab sessions 
  4. Supervising students involved in undergraduate, postgraduate, or doctoral projects
  5. Delivering workshops for either staff or students 


The course is externally accredited by Advance HE and runs in both the first and second half sessions of the current academic year (once in May/June and once in November/December). The Principles of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education course runs over six consecutive 90-minute Wednesday afternoon sessions. The course is spread over six weeks to allow participants to complete three formative assignments plus an observation of their teaching practice, as well as their work and study. There is also one summative assessment, which is tied to the course’s professional accreditation. Successful participants with enough teaching experience should be able to achieve Associate Fellowship (AFHEA) from Advance HE. Those who do not yet have enough experience, will receive a course completion certificate that they can use to demonstrate they have enough knowledge to begin to practise tutoring and gain the necessary experience to apply for Associate Fellowship (AFHEA) by Advance HE at a later date, through the University of Aberdeen’s CPD Framework run by the Centre for Academic Development.

Please note: to complete the course successfully you need to attend all sessions - this is a prerequisite of the course. For more details on sessions 1-6, our duties under GDPR and an application form see the drop-down menu below. 

There are six compulsory workshops in the Principles of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PLTHE) course. PLTHE course participants may wish to note that there will also be an optional session. This session is to help to ensure that those wishing to apply for Associate Fellow (AFHEA) from Advance HE are familiar with the requirements of the UK Professional Standards Framework; this Framework sets out the dimensions that you have to make claims against when you are applying for AFHEA.

If you would like to attend this optional session, but are unable to, then you are advised to discuss other options with your course coordinator when you start the PLTHE course. Your course coordinator will be happy to help you.


Week 1       -     How People Learn

Week 2       -     Assessment & Feedback

Week 3       -     Approaches to Teaching

Week 4       -     Learning Environments

Week 5       -     Evaluating Your Teaching & Scholarship of Learning

Week 6       -     Neurodiversity & Specific Learning Differences


Case Studies

Here some comments from some of those who have recently, successfully completed the Principles of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education course.

Dr Hamdi Ahmad

Name: Dr Hamdi Ahmad

Role: Now Assistant Professor in Linguistics at Prince Sattam University, Saudi Arabia

School/Professional Service: Former Teaching assistant at School of LLMVC, the University of Aberdeen, UK

PLTHE Date: June/July 2022

Question 1: Why did you undertake PLTHE?

Although I had already achieved AFHEA, I decided to complete the PLTHE programme. The course is much like a vibrant academic community, made up of top-class researchers and practitioners with advanced subject knowledge in various specialisms from many different Schools. Alongside this, the programme aims to develop and sharpen each participant’s skills to draft their smart career plans, indicating how they intend to progress their professional development as educators following on from the course.

Question 2: How has the PLTHE course impacted upon your teaching/supporting learning practice?

The PLTHE programme as a whole exceeded my expectations. Informative lectures, inspiring discussions, practical assignments, as well as specialist reading material, all have helped me build up considerable competence and confidence in designing and teaching. In addition, I have benefitted enormously from the opportunity to research, critique and evaluate the effectiveness of new methods for learning and teaching. I even gained the opportunity to attend and observe actual presentations. Thanks to PLTHE, I have updated my pedagogical knowledge, developed my reflective skills, and advanced my career.

Question 3: What has been the most beneficial piece of content from the course for your professional development?

The most beneficial piece of content from the PLTHE course would be the various methods and tools for student assessment. I have learnt that summative evaluation of teaching carried out at the very end of the course is not the best (only) approach. In short, undertaking the PLTHE course was such an enriching and amazing experience. I was deeply impressed by the expert and outstanding tutors on the PLTHE programme.

Dr Kirsty Kernohan

Name: Dr Kirsty Kernohan

Role: Teaching Fellow

School/Professional Service: Social Science

PLTHE Date: October/November 2021

Question 1: Why did you undertake PLTHE?

"I chose to do the PLTHE to take advantage of the support offered to apply for Advance HE Associate Fellowship. I wanted to pursue a qualification which would reflect my teaching experience at Aberdeen and allow me to represent it on my CV in the future. The PLTHE was the perfect way to pursue the Associate Fellowship as the assignments offered a step-by-step process and staff were on hand to help and answer questions."

Question 2: How has the PLTHE course impacted upon your teaching/supporting learning practice?

"The biggest benefit of the PLTHE was the opportunity to meet other people involved in teaching from different departments and schools. The opportunity to share experiences and learn about similar and different approaches across disciplines was very helpful. The chance to receive feedback on observed teaching was also useful and has given me points to address and new ideas for my teaching practice."

Question 3: What has been the most beneficial piece of content from the course for your professional development?

"The most helpful part of the course for me was the assignments, particularly the practical ones which encouraged me to reflect on my existing teaching practice. I found the assignment where we had to peer review short examples of each other’s teaching particularly rewarding because it allowed for mutual support amongst people on the course and encouraged us to draw on strengths from each other’s knowledge and experience."

Dr Paul Sheridan

Name: Dr Paul Sheridan

Role: Research Fellow

School/Professional Service: School of Biological Sciences

PLTHE Date: November/December 2021

Question 1: Why did you undertake PLTHE?

I was giving lectures to undergraduates in my area of expertise (microbiology), and I wanted to ensure that I provided an engaging and inclusive experience for all of my students. I hadn’t previously received any formal training in teaching practice, and I wanted to change that. This course gave me the primer I needed to apply for Associate Fellowship of Advance HE.

Question 2: How has the PLTHE course impacted upon your teaching/supporting learning practice?

Thanks to the Principles of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education course, I am now more aware of individual learning differences and how I can accommodate these proactively in my teaching, so that every student has the tools that they need to achieve their potential. My lecture structure is now more interactive and incorporates collaborative learning strategies, such as breakout groups and class discussions.

Question 3: What has been the most beneficial piece of content from the course for your professional development?

The course included a practical assessment in which we were asked to record a short presentation on our areas of expertise. The presentations were then assessed by other individuals in the class and feedback was provided. I found this very useful, as it not only pointed out weaker areas in my presentations which could be replaced or improved, but also highlighted things that I was doing right and could expand on in the future.  

Holding your data: our duties under GDPR

The University of Aberdeen is mindful we have a legal obligation to comply with the the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. You can find out more about the University's policy and position on data protection as well as general guidance on data protection here. Furthermore, you can find out more about how we use staff data on our University Staff Privacy Notice page.

Further Details/ Application Form

Further details on any aspect of the Principles of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education and/or an application form are available at the Centre for Academic Development.

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Aaron Thom, Centre for Academic Development

Centre for Academic Development:

Please be advised to complete the application form as fully and accurately as possible.  Your application is based on the content on this form ONLY (previous communications are not considered as part of the formal application). 

The next courses are taking place:

  • TBC