Articulating the value of teaching experience as a postgraduate

Posted in: For PhDs

Guest blog post from Millie Green, a doctoral student in the Department of Mathematics. A few weeks ago Millie attended a session as part of the Doctoral Skills programme on how to articulate the skills, knowledge and experience gained through teaching as a postgraduate. She writes below about her learning points from the session.

This year (2017-18) will be my 6th consecutive year of teaching at the university of Bath as a postgraduate. During this time, I have been so busy, racing from task to task and attempting to multi-task that I’ve never really taken the time to reflect on teaching experiences. The reason for this was simple – I didn’t know how.

So, to help me reflect on and recognise the skills that I had developed through teaching as a postgraduate, I decided to go on a new skills session, provided by the Doctoral College and the Careers Service; “Articulating the Value of your Teaching Experience”. The session consisted of both slide-based learning alongside interactive activities and a motivating talk from Eleanor Parker, the Doctoral Engagement Manager, reflecting on how her experience of teaching at University had helped to prepare her for her current job.

During the session, I learned how to view my teaching experiences from a different angle. For example, I often find that the groups that I tutor are very different; some are very active and my tutees willingly get involved while for other groups I have to really push to get them to participate. I had never really given this much thought, assuming that this was just part and parcel of teaching. However, upon reflection, I can now appreciate that working with different groups has enabled me to develop and enhance many transferable skills such as communication, motivation, flexibility, resilience, and the ability to deal with change and the unexpected. Being able to communicate effectively with a variety of groups is a highly valued skill both inside and outside of academia. As part of the first activity in the session we brainstormed the transferable skills we have gained through teaching and came up with an impressive list:

  • Time management
  • planning/organising
  • Collaborating
  • Humour
  • Showing own enthusiasm/energy/passion for subject
  • Understanding real-world context/promoting this
  • Attention to detail
  • Focus
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • Staying calm under pressure
  • Sensitivity to others/empathy
  • working independently and as part of a team
  • inter-cultural awareness

We learned that all of these skills are highly transferable to contexts outside of academia, and how to market these positively and effectively, for example by using lots of action words (e.g. liaised, presented. delivered), clearly demonstrating how our experience meets an employer's needs, and highlighting positive contributions and achievements such as student feedback. We learned the importance of matching language and content to an employer's needs; for example, when talking about your teaching experience outside of academia you may not need to list module titles but should focus instead the transferable skills and behaviours used in teaching. When talking about your teaching experience in a CV for an HE teaching or lecturing role, you do need to give specific information about the courses you have taught, type of teaching (e.g.lecture, demonstrating) and the level of the students as well as the actions you took and what you and your students achieved.

After this course, I feel much more confident about being able to reflect on my teaching experiences. I am able to appreciate the broad range of skills and attributes that I have developed, not to mention the diverse range of people I've had the privilege of working with.

For further information on gaining teaching experience as a doctoral student, please see the Doctoral College website. For more information on current issues in HE teaching and learning, check out the Higher Education Academy, Universities UK and WonkHE.

Posted in: For PhDs

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