Introduction to University Teaching modules

Background

These optional, 10-credit Masters-level modules were introduced in academic year 2009-10 (for ID5101) and 2010-11 (for ID5102).

  • Introduction to University Teaching 1: Supporting Student Learning (ID5101)
  • Introduction to University Teaching 2: Curriculum Design and Assessment (ID5102)

They were specifically designed to support the professional development of postgraduate tutors and demonstrators who wished to pursue a career in academia after their PhDs.  (See Long term impact, below.) However, the modules are open to all staff in the University who support learning and teaching, and over the years an increasing number of research staff and early career academics have enrolled as well.  Both modules are accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) at Descriptor 1 of the UK Professional Standards Framework, which means that successful completion of either module confers Associate Fellowship of the HEA.  HEA Fellowship or some other form of teaching qualification is increasingly becoming an essential requirement for academic posts.

Uptake

ID5101 runs every year in semester 1, and ID5102 runs every year in semester 2.

Enrolment on each module is capped at 16 to ensure a highly interactive and engaging learning experience for all participants. Uptake has increased steadily since the modules were first introduced. There were 8 students in the first ID5101 cohort in AY2009-10, 13 in AY2011-12 (and 12-13) and 16 this year. For ID5102, the first cohort in AY2010-11 was 13, and this has remained fairly stable since.

Evaluation

Participant feedback recorded on the standard University module evaluation forms, and anonymous surveys via Moodle, is highly positive. For standard questions relating to module design (eg The module was well organised) and delivery (eg The lecturer was good at explaining things, The teaching style was engaging), the average rating has always been between 1 and 2 (out of 5, where 1 is strong agreement and therefore the best response).

Participants are able to identify specific improvements to their teaching as a result of having completed the modules, eg:

“It has allowed me to improve the quality of my feedback tremendously, in addition to giving me skills in module design.”

“Although I was initially cynical about the relevance of the CAPOD modules to my teaching, I have adopted several of the practices suggested within the course. In particular, I have developed formative exercises to support students in their summative assessments, often incorporating peer-feedback. I also found the development of a reflective journal surprisingly useful to the development of my teaching in the medium to long term.”

“It emphasized for me that not only what is covered in a module but how it is taught determines what students learn, and needs to be addressed intentionally in designing the course. It was helpful to see my own practice and the practice of very good teachers in my department in this light.”

“I think the reflective aspect was most helpful, it forced me to consider what I did (and most importantly didn’t) do well and consider how I can improve on this next semester.”

Participants found the modules very rewarding and universally agreed that they would recommend the modules to others, eg:

“It’s eye opening, enhances one’s teaching and attitude, teaches how to think outside the box, and in reality practice of reflective technique is a transferable skill. It really should be mandatory.”

“I think it’s helpful to be formally taught how to put a module together–everything from choosing topics to weighting them to making sure the assessment reinforces what you want your students to learn–and the philosophy behind it. Also, I loved being in an interdisciplinary group and learning about my colleagues’ perspectives through the discussion and their module topics.”

“It’s an invaluable opportunity to engage with pedagogical theory and practical techniques. Chance for open and supportive discussion is excellent. Has certainly helped me develop my teaching practice, and would imagine this would be case for any PGR.”

However, in addition to self-improvement, it was clear from feedback that at least some participants also had a career advancement motivation for doing the modules:

“Mainly because the classroom discussion is enjoyable and it looks good on your CV.”

“Because it’s not a lot of work to get something that can make a nice difference on a CV.”

“Thinking instrumentally, it’s a great CV enhancement.”

“I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be in academia, especially post-docs who will be doing some kind of teaching and supervising.”

Long term impact

One of the aims of these modules is to support and develop postgraduate tutors and demonstrators who wish to pursue a career in academia after their PhD. Feedback from past participants (some of whom have now graduated and found academic posts) testify to the positive and lasting impact that the modules have had on their professional development and career progression as academics:

“I’m moving to London for 1 July as I got a (research) post-doc at King’s! But I just wanted to say thanks for your help and for running these teaching modules. I think it’s actually more important than anyone is really stressing at the moment to get that first foot on the HEA ladder – more or less all of the teaching jobs I’ve applied for over the last few months have asked specifically whether the candidate has any HEA accreditation. So, at least from a historian’s perspective, maybe you can pass that on to try and ‘sell’ the courses (and I’ll certainly continue telling students I know). I think in an era with large numbers of PhDs and lots of competition, HEA looks like it’s becoming a way to set yourself apart from other candidates. I said that all the teaching jobs I applied for asked for it, but thinking about it so did the research ones.” [Edward Roberts, Mediaeval History, completed ID5101 in 2013-14, graduated in 2014]


“I’d like to let it be known that taking Supporting Student Learning (ID5101) and Curriculum Design and Assessment (ID5102) was one of the best things about my entire PhD process. I learned that teaching is very much a craft. Because of your course, I am developing and sharing my pedagogical philosophies and learning and teaching practices with senior faculty members in my department and others. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh–who is designing and teaching several of my own courses–the modules I took have really helped me to deliver effective courses for my students. The lessons I learned from the modules (like creating clear learning objectives, and then linking them together in a cumulative and coherent way) have enabled me to receive extremely high marks in my student course evaluations. Not just this, but several assistant professors now come to me with their classroom problems (e.g. getting students engaged, what to do with later papers, failure to grasp threshold concepts, etc.)!” [Philip Kao, Social Anthropology, completed ID5102 in 2011-12 and ID5101 in 2012-13, graduated in 2014]


“I put your teaching to good use after all: that module on film criticism I designed never saw the light (sadly), but I got a position within the Foundational Programme at the ELC, and had to design my own introductory module to Film Studies. It was great fun, and I tried to make it as constructively aligned as I could. So, well, thanks again – ID5012 was one of the most rewarding and energising experiences I have had in my time in St A, and – retrospectively – one of the most useful so far in terms of my professional life.” [Pasquale Cicchetti, Film Studies, completed ID5102 in 2012-13]


“I wanted to let you know how useful both the ID5101/ AFHEA qualification, and the IRLT experience, has been for my CV. They’ve led to some very positive conversations about employment – sadly not to actual employment, but certainly playing an important part in getting noticed as something more than just another not-yet-published/ soon-to-submit PhD student. I was at a conference and mentioning the AFHEA qualification was clearly an important step in being invited to apply for a lectureship at Leicester.” [Management student, completed ID5101 in 2013-14]

For more information on these modules, visit the Research postgraduates who teach page (and scroll to the bottom), and you may wish to read an article about the modules published in the journal Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Vol 8, No 2 (2013): Postgraduates who teach: a forgotten tribe? Not here!

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