We asked past participants of the Bath Course what one piece of advice to they would give to themselves as a new lecturer/teaching fellow. Here are a selection of responses grouped under some common themes of Confidence, Students, Teaching, Developing, and The Job:
Have confidence, but accept things take time
My advice to myself would be that there is a lot to learn as a new lecturer and the learning curve can be quite steep at times. It would therefore be helpful to be patient with yourself and not expect yourself to be able to do and know everything at once as it will take time, practice and experience.
“Do not try to get everything perfect in your first year.”
Teaching is an evolutionary process and courses take time to develop.
Don’t be afraid to take ownership for the unit you are on. More often than not, a new lecturer feels that they need to follow in the footsteps of his/her predecessor and emulate them. They need to be more reflective and think about what they are presenting to students, change as appropriate by addition or deletion of material or methods. They shouldn’t feel pressured to make the former lecturer happy.
I would advise myself to have more confidence in my abilities and my subject knowledge. One issue that came out of my teaching observations was that while the content of my classes/lectures is absolutely fine, my delivery does not always come across as confident or authoritative… after teaching for two semesters, I am now much more confident in my expertise and my academic abilities, and this is something that students also pick up on.
I would advise myself not to take little setbacks too seriously. Sometimes, taking a step back and reflecting upon a problem over a period of a few days allows one to get an idea of the bigger picture and the wider context of a particular problem. After that, the problem tends to solve itself and the pieces all fall into place.
Don’t worry so much, but ask your colleagues for help early and often.
Biology & Biochemistry
Think about things from their perspective
Consider the student population carefully (diversity) and continually make adjustments to enhance student learning experience.
“Think back to when you were the student!”. I completed the BSc at the University of Bath so I feel that I can identify with the students well…. From a student-centred view, I reflected on what I found difficult and the topics I failed to identify with (i.e., those for which the relevance was not clear). My approach as a lecturer was when designing [the unit] was to only include topics essential for further study and employment in fields related to [the field]. Further, I used teaching strategies that would facilitate learning of topics I anticipated students would find challenging (e.g., student-centred interactive tasks and group work). By forecasting ahead to concepts taught in subsequent years, I highlighted why fundamental but seemingly abstract topics were being taught.
Be prepared, but flexible and engaging
To be mindful in not taking traditional teaching methods and approaches to teaching as the standard, no matter how established they are, but being open to new ideas, tools and methods that have the potential to improve my teaching.
Be prepared: plan your tutorials carefully – not only at the start of each project but also for each day of tutorials. Evaluate the tutorial sessions afterwards, and adjust the next week’s tutorial to suit.
Architecture & Civil Engineering
Provide a clear structure for the course which clearly describes the learning outcomes, the assessment method and how the course will be used to address these. This helps to benchmark student expectations of the course and of themselves. It also allows other colleagues to understand the direction of the course and where they can have input.
Architecture & Civil Engineering
Makes the lectures as interactive as you can since that helps to boost student interest, learning and performance.
I believe that one of the most important part of a good lecture is extent at which students are engaged and participate. I believe that in class activities matter most for engaging students, the more the better and also the more challenging as the weeks pass the better. Students do not answer to easy questions, but if there is something challenging that triggers their interest, they will participate.
To increase rapport between you and your students, even in large class environments – when you pose a question give students the opportunity to discuss their ideas with their colleagues sat next to them before you ask them for an answer. This gives them time to think, and builds their confidence in their answers which supports their self-efficacy in providing answers to questions that you pose to the whole group. This technique is simple and you can use it straight away in your teaching. It is perhaps obvious to some, but it wasn’t to me. It works well for classes of all levels, undergraduate and postgraduate, and even at conferences and is a simple way to enhance interactivity in classrooms.
Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Be flexible and adaptable in your approach to teaching
Pharmacy and Pharmacology
the importance of feedback and reflection
My advice would be to continuously critically evaluate several aspects of a unit. Examples of such aspects include the content of the course, the method of instruction, and formative and summative types of assessment. Student evaluations and peer review can be of great assistance in this process of self-reflection.
On the teaching side: I would remind myself to seek more often the feedback from students and personalize more my feedback. On the research side: I would try to think about engagement, and how my research can translate into impact cases for the next REF.
I think there are numerous bits of advice I would give to myself but if I had to limit my advice my key point would be to never stop reflecting on teaching experiences and to use every opportunity to improve performance. Ultimately we are all also students striving to improve performance and therefore the very models of learning that we aim to apply must be applied to our development as teacher practitioners too. Thus we can apply Race’s ripples model to our own practice – the wanting to improve, the doing the teaching, the making sense of the experiences and using the feedback of others to drive our teaching experiences and that of our students upwards. To me reflection is key, whether that is self-reflection or reflecting on others performances, comments or actions.
Pharmacy and Pharmacology
The most broadly applicable piece of advice I could give to new teachers and lecturers is focus on how you can improve your practice. As such, no matter how much (or how little) experience and knowledge you have of teaching, improvements can always be made. An obvious method to use to help improve your practice is ‘critical reflection’ (Reason & Riley, 2008) …... Drawing upon arguments from Living Theory (Whitehead, 2008), I would also advise that, in the process of critical reflection, new teachers should be aware of the “importance of individual creativity in contributing to improving practice and knowledge from within historical and cultural opportunities and constraints in the social contexts of the individual’s life and work” (p.103).
Reason, P., & Riley, S. (2008). Co-operative inquiry: An action research practice. In J. A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (2nd ed., pp. 207-234). London: Sage.
Whitehead, J. (2008). Using a living theory methodology in improving practice and generating educational knowledge in living theories. Educational Journal of Living Theories, 1(1), 103–126.
I have realized that I need to always look for new developments in the teaching and learning literature. In addition I need to be in touch and discuss with my colleagues about new methods that could enhance students’ learning and development. I also need to update constantly my knowledge about new technologies and use them for the befit of my students.
The best way of learning and refining teaching practice is to exchange with peers and teachers both from your own and other disciplines. This can be done through informal chats, by observing their practice, formal peer reviewing and mentoring.
I found student feedback, peer reviews, and self-reflection on teaching methods to be instrumental in identifying which aspects of a unit need to be improved. I would argue that continuous critical reflection on the scope of the unit, the appropriateness of its ILOs, and the methods with which knowledge is transmitted and assessed are essential for effective teaching and learning.
Get informal feedback from students (i.e. Stop, Start, Continue) during the early stages of a lecture course (i.e. 2 or 3 lectures in)- this changed how I provided my notes (i.e. in advance on Moodle), I started to include breaks with relevant YouTube videos or PowerPoint presentations and I use Turning Point as a means of generating discussion.
Be proactive in getting support and advice from mentors and peers from the very beginning. Be proactive in seeking out and making use of other sources of support and resources. Don’t over-invest in particular activities at the expense of others - one (I!) can’t be perfect at everything all at once and straight away, because there are too many plates to keep spinning in academia. Don’t let the pressures of probation impact negatively on your mental health! More than one, sorry, but I’ve reflected and learnt a lot!
Social and Policy Sciences
time management and prioritisation
The demands of setting up a new course and devising a new curriculum have sometimes been at the expense of my research programme. My advice to myself would be to try any balance the demands more effectively and to actively protect time for research. Allocating portions of my week to particular tasks would be beneficial to ensure that no one aspect of my role took precedent over others.
I would recommend more effective time management. There are a lot of demands on the time of an academic including all aspects of research, teaching, student supervision and administration. Being able to identify the priorities in the day-to-day activities will help one to succeed in all aspects and become a well-rounded academic.
Stay focused on your core interests that you want to develop (e.g. a new module, an area of research) and don’t take on lots of little other things that cumulatively take up a lot of time.
Learn to say no to distracting tasks and to prioritise quickly tasks that offer maximum return with regard to research or student learning.