This article discusses a hot topic in UK academia and asks how you can put knowledge of ‘student experience’ to good use in your job seeking.
What is ‘student experience’ and why is it important?
Since the introduction of higher tuition fees in UK universities, departments have become more focused on improving services provided to students. This is designed to offer them better value for money without compromising their learning experience.
Considering student experience means focusing on extra-curricular activities and adapting the curriculum to provide students with the best possible chances in the job market once they leave university.
It also reflects an increased interest in teaching expertise within the sector, showing that now, in many institutions, teaching excellence is valued in academic jobseekers alongside research. For most new jobs and for some promotion applications you will be required to prove that you are a good teacher as well as a good researcher.
How do you show this knowledge as a jobseeker?
In most interviews you will be asked to discuss your teaching methods and teaching philosophy. Show how you have been especially innovative or have worked to develop certain important skills among your students. Perhaps you might have offered opportunities for them to develop their learning outside the classroom in field trips or through the use of visiting speakers.
You will also be asked in the formal interview panel to discuss your teaching and you need to show that you know why student experience is important, not only for its own sake, but also because student experience and its key indicator, the NSS (National Student Survey), is an important recruitment tool for departments that perform well.
If you can help your new department to improve its NSS scores, you will be invaluable to your employers. Being able to converse about these developments in detail to Heads of Department and Deans of School will impress those interviewing you.
How to develop your teaching profile with a view to enhancing student experience
A key aspect is to research the main concerns of undergraduate students in your field. These usually come into several main categories: resources, teaching style, assessment. When discussing the sorts of module that you might teach, show them that you have considered the requirements of students by making the learning resources easily accessible and up to date.
Consider your teaching style and how you might make it more innovative and appealing to students with a range of learning types. For example, making the traditional lecture more interactive is a key trend in the sector.
Again, making assessment exciting, while contributing to student employability, will also show that you have considered the student experience. Sticking to standard assessment formats because it has always been done that way is no longer acceptable. Choose types of assessment that stretch all students, and which offer them skills that will be useful in the workplace, by encouraging them to learn in new ways.
If, in your cover letter and interview, you demonstrate how you have enhanced the ‘student experience’ in your teaching and curriculum design, this will help your job prospects.