Leveraging the capabilities of sessional teachers in design education

Dijana Alic, Alanya Drummond, Sarbeswar Praharaj, Jack Peacock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sessional teachers (also known as casual educators or contract tutors) account for a significant percentage of higher education teaching in Australia; studies identify anywhere from 50 percent up to 80 percent both in terms of the number of educators and hours spent with students. There are risks associated with an under-trained casualized academic workforce in design education, including the teaching experience of the casual educators and the learning experience of their students. At UNSW Built Environment, a self-paced online capability development resource has been implemented to support its sessional staff, both in terms of teaching and learning skills and establishing a sense of community. This article unpacks the program, named BE UPskilled, in order to argue for correlation between ongoing professional development and the creation of a sustainable, high quality sessional staff cohort of design educators. The content development of BE UPskilled is outlined and the various stages of its implementation are reviewed. Analysis of feedback from a pilot version is shared and impact factors are evaluated, demonstrating how such resources may be improved in the future and scaled up for broader application in higher education teaching and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-143
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Design Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Capability upskilling
  • Casual educators
  • Design education
  • Educational experience
  • Online resources
  • Professional development
  • Sessional staff
  • Teaching training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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