Preparing For The University Holidays: Academic Spring Cleaning!

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Only at the end of a long and hectic teaching term do academics have a chance to take stock of their progress over the last few months. Term time can be so busy that it provides no time to do anything other than ‘firefight’ (i.e. deal with immediate problems and not to think about long term strategies). This article suggests ways of dealing with the problems that have accumulated throughout the term.

Assess the success of your teaching strategies

It’s important to spend some time at the end of the term working out whether your teaching has been a success. You may be able to adjust aspects that didn’t work so well or emphasise those that worked better than you had hoped. Changing a course at a midway point in the year is not always possible, but a response to student and tutor concerns should be made where possible.  It also gives you an opportunity to get an overview of the course as a whole rather than simply ploughing through the material, week by week. Did you cover the material you had hoped? How did the students respond? Have they performed well in their assessments? Have you had any feedback from them or from other tutors about the success of the course? Perhaps now is the time to amend the course in line with this feedback.

Pick up the threads of your research again

With a heavy teaching load in the last few months, you probably have not devoted much time to your research. Now you have the opportunity of revisiting those projects left undone, or feeling the excitement of starting a new piece of work.  Perhaps you have a conference coming up and need to do some preparation for the paper. Or maybe an ongoing book or article project requires your attention? Academics get most of their research done during the university holidays. However these short periods go past very quickly, so plan your activities carefully for these precious few free weeks in order to be most productive.

Build that CV

Now is your chance to add anything to your CV that you have achieved over the last term, whether that comes under the heading of new teaching, research, publications or an academic position. It is important to keep a current CV at all times, so the end of a busy term is a good opportunity to spend a few hours catching up on this. Even if you are not seeking a new job at the moment, there are many reasons why your CV might be requested: most fellowships, conferences and prizes will require a CV. If you keep the document up to date then you won’t face a panic to update it when someone does request it.

Have a rest!

Make sure you allow yourself some time to take a break, either taken as formal leave or simply by giving yourself a lighter workload for a few days. A hectic term’s teaching can exhaust you, as can travelling if you have a long commute. Exposure to bugs and germs in the classroom can leave lecturers feeling at a low ebb by the end of term. You may be a little jaded and even unenthusiastic! If this is the case, you probably just need a complete rest. In these cases, resist the temptation to pick up your research. Give yourself some work-free days and recharge your batteries.

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