Foundations of the DEFT Project: tertiary educators Developing Expertise Fostering Thinking


  • Judy-anne Osborn
  • Jo-Ann Larkins
  • Bonnie McBain
  • Peter Ellerton
  • Joel Black
  • Naomi Borwein
  • Florian Breuer
  • Malcom Roberts



We describe the rationale, creation, and activity of a long-term co-constructed voluntary professional development initiative for tertiary educators. This is a Community of Practice (CoP) formed to investigate “thinking” as a topic which may be explicitly taught. The aim of this paper is to share the value of this CoP in one context and insights into how similar approaches may be useful to other tertiary educators. The project has run for a year to date, involving a small but growing collective of tertiary educators, with members from one Canadian and several Australian Universities. Our methodology is participatory: we regularly meet, reflect, and record our reflections. Our records contain data relating to our motivation, our insights, and the impact of these upon our choices in our teaching practices. In particular, our rationale includes the mutual desire to invest in developing understanding of our teaching challenges, to enable us to create thoughtful teaching approaches fit for our purposes and contexts. Hence, the central focus of our CoP is the Development of our Expertise in Fostering Thinking (DEFT). This focus has illuminated gaps in existing scholarly literature pertaining to communal development of theory, personal development of schemata, capacity for reflexivity, and instantiation in our disciplines. Opportunities and risks associated with our other sources of professional learning are identified and discussed. We elaborate on a double-layered approach, in which we explore the construction of our own schemata as a precursor to helping students build their schemata as a foundation for their own understanding, and the role of flexible, critical, and creative thinking on our part. We utilise the scholarship of expertise, frequently returning to such questions as “How do we know what our students are thinking?” Insights gleaned from our reflections are shared, and recommendations are presented on the formation of similar projects.






Research Articles