Ten Things you need to know about Teaching at HE level

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1. Teach what you’ll enjoy

HE lecturers have more autonomy over what they teach than high school teachers. Although your teaching will have to fit into a pre-existing degree programme and not overlap with current provision, you will be able to design and teach courses of your own invention. While these courses will have to be popular (many departments will not run courses with only a handful of students) it is important that you design courses that you will enjoy teaching. Many lecturers create courses close to their area of research specialism.

2. Be prepared to teach outside your specialism

However, lecturers must also be prepared to teach outside their specialism in order to help fill gaps in the department’s coverage. This might seem daunting, but remember, with a little preparation, you will know more than the students!

3. Undertake training as early as possible

Most universities now offer a diploma training course in teaching at HE level. It is compulsory for many new members of staff. If you are able to complete this course while doing your PhD or temporary contracts then you will not only benefit from the knowledge gained, but you won’t have to repeat it when you start a permanent job.

4. Classes are getting larger every year

Even Oxford and Cambridge are considering abandoning their cherished tutorial system. But for most HE lecturers, seminars of around 20 students will now be the norm. The techniques you employ to convey information and facilitate learning in this situation will be very different from small group seminars.

5. Resources, eg library books, are stretched

When designing a course be aware that your university library probably cannot afford to buy large numbers of new books. If it can, only a few copies will be available. So, when setting your students tasks, make sure that they do have access to the resources to complete those tasks.

6. Make the most of e-learning

A way of solving problem 5 above is to use electronic resources. E-learning portals such as WebCT or Moodle are also very useful for undertaking online assessment or supporting learning with blogs and wikis. Make sure that you take advantage of everything that your institution can offer.

7. You’ll have to teach spelling and grammar

Unfortunately you’ll find that some of your students struggle with written communication. You may think that teaching the basics of the English language is not part of your role as a university lecturer, but increasingly it is part of the job. Your students should leave university being confident in their communication skills and able to convince an employer that they have these skills.

8. Dealing with plagiarism

At some point in your career you’ll have to deal with a plagiarism case. This can be difficult because the thought of ruining a student’s chances is not a pleasant one. Your institution will have a set of regulations and procedures in place to ensure that your position is protected if you make an justified accusation. You will be required to provide evidence of where the plagiarism occurred and you may be involved in the judgement process although sometimes this is left to senior members of the department.

9. Juggling teaching and research is always a challenge

As a HE lecturer you will usually be expected to maintain a research profile as well. Unless you have substantial amounts of teaching relief, it is unlikely you’ll be able to do much research during the term times, but if you are disciplined, you can do a small amount each week. Maintaining your research profile is as important as being a good teacher.

10. It is really rewarding!

Don’t forget that this is an amazing profession! Relative intellectual autonomy coupled with the pleasure of seeing young people’s academic development make this job very rewarding.

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