VET teachers: Qualifications and quality

Would more highly-qualified teachers and trainers help to address quality problems in the Australian vocational education and training system?

Research team

  • Erica Smith (Federation University Australia)
  • Keiko Yasukawa (University of Technology Sydney)
  • Roger Harris (University of South Australia)
  • Jacqueline Tuck (Federation University Australia)

Industry partner organisations

This was an ARC-funded Linkage project, with the following partner organisations:

  • TAFE Queensland
  • Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET)
  • National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
  • VET Development Centre
  • Federation Training

Funding source

This research was funded through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage program.

Research period


Project aims

This project examined whether and how higher-level qualifications for vocational education and training (VET) teachers would improve quality in the VET system. Government documents and public commentary indicate that the VET sector suffers from some fairly serious quality problems. This is significant because VET provides training that underpins all Australian industries. Most VET teachers are qualified only to a Certificate IV level. A more highly qualified VET teaching workforce is likely to lead to improvements in quality; however there is currently no firm evidence to establish this link, as the 2011 Productivity Commission report on the VET workforce pointed out. This project set out to provide much-needed evidence to guide policy.


The research questions which were addressed by this project were:

  1. What differences do VET teachers' levels of qualification (both pedagogical and discipline-based) make to their teaching concepts, approaches and practice?
  2. What differences do VET teachers' levels of qualification make to their ability to navigate complex training contexts, to teach across the large range of qualification levels and diversity of learners typical of VET, and to contribute to improved student outcomes?
  3. How do levels of qualification affect VET teachers' engagement in further professional development activities (pedagogical development and industry engagement), and how can PD be tailored for different groups?
  4. In what ways do more highly-qualified VET teachers contribute to improved quality in VET? What actual and potential barriers and facilitators are associated with this contribution, including resourcing issues and policy changes?

The project included qualitative and quantitative research, and research was carried out in public and private Registered Training Organisations.

Executive summary

The project has concluded. View the Executive Summary.

Project phases

Stage 1: The effects of VET teacher qualification levels on teaching, learning and RTO functioning (Research questions 1 and 2)

* Phase (i): This phase involved interviews with stakeholders and focus groups of teachers/trainers and students to establish current views about what makes a good VET teacher.

* Phase (ii): This phase involved a major national survey of VET teachers and trainers in a sample of TAFE institutes and of private and enterprise Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The survey examined VET teachers' approaches to teaching to see how they varied among teachers with different qualification levels. The survey also asked questions about professional development. View the survey questions (docx, 241kb).

* Phase (iii): Detailed case studies were completed in eight RTOs (public and private) to gather more data about whether and how VET teachers' qualifications affect the quality of their teaching and their capability for undertaking more senior and management positions. Interviews and focus groups were held at several levels of the organisations and in different industry/discipline areas.

Stage 2: Links between VET teacher qualifications and professional development (Research question 3)

* This stage involved further visits to public and private RTOs, focusing on professional development and its relationship with teacher qualifications.

* The survey data collected in Stage 1 phase (ii) has been analysed regarding professional development engagement by qualification level.

* A national survey has been undertaken, of participants in professional development offered by the three major providers of VET professional development, to see whether and how VET teachers' participation in professional development is affected by their level of qualification, and what the implications are for more effective professional development. View the survey questions (docx, 651kb).

Stage 3: Implications and implementation (Research question 4)

* This phase examined policy and implementation issues, drawn out through a 'Delphi' process with 30 national experts in VET policy and 30 RTO CEOs. Each expert was surveyed three times. This phase uncovered the national policy and national VET teacher workforce development implications of the findings, and also the institutional-level implications.

An international Delphi process will also be conducted. This has been added due to international interest in the project and is outside the funded scope of the project.

Project progress

The project fieldwork has been completed, apart from the international Delphi process.

For more detailed information about progress, please click on the links below:

June 2016 summary of progress (docx, 185kb)

November 2016 summary of progress (docx, 26kb)

November 2017 summary of progress (docx, 36kb)

Findings of the first two Delphi surveys (docx. 236kb)

Presentation on the findings of the third Delphi survey (pptx, 54kb)

The seven key findings of the Delphi process (docx, 168kb)

View a list of project publications and conference papers (docx, 185kb)

Contact us

For further information about the research, please contact Professor Erica Smith on (03) 5327 9665 or