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Why universities should provide less support for postgraduates who teach. Sean Brocklebank, PhD student, Economics University of Edinburgh. Preliminaries. I’m a 4 th year PhD student in Edinburgh’s School of Economics

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Why universities should provide less support for postgraduates who teach


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why universities should provide less support for postgraduates who teach

Why universities should provide less support for postgraduates who teach

Sean Brocklebank,

PhD student, Economics

University of Edinburgh

preliminaries
Preliminaries
  • I’m a 4th year PhD student in Edinburgh’s School of Economics
  • Acting this year as “head tutor” (no one knows what that means) and leading reforms of the 1st year undergraduate curriculum
  • Caveat emptor: these slides based largely on impressions and anecdotes (there is only a sprinkling of actual social science)
the point
The point
  • I will argue:
    • Most postgraduates don’t need much support; it’s better to think about empowerment
    • Those that do need support should mainly get it from other postgrads, and/or they should be given less demanding jobs
the problem as i see it
The problem as I see it
  • Postgraduates who teach are not all the same
  • They differ significantly in:
    • Motivation
    • Personality
    • Language ability
    • Teaching skills
    • Background knowledge
  • One-size-fits-all support policies aren’t appropriate (especially if they are targeted at the weakest postgrads)
    • The best teachers will be most encumbered
the solution
The solution
  • On existing support structures:
    • I have never heard of a postgrad expressing thanks for teaching support from outside their department
    • But I have heard of thanks for support inside of departments
      • Only ‘locals’ know have the level of knowledge necessary to be useful (content knowledge, marking norms, curriculum, etc.)
  • This suggests (non-scientifically) that the support which exists should be provided by other postgrads
how would it work
How would it work?
  • Most departments already know which of their postgrads are better teachers
    • Put them “in charge” of a big course, and have them “apprentice” new postgrads
      • New postgrads must attend the first few of the senior tutor’s tutorials
      • Senior tutor provides advice, guidance, etc.
  • Most departments also know who the weaker teachers are (often for language reasons)
    • If they must work (e.g. for scholarship) then have them mark essays and have the other postgrads tutor more
benefits of empowerment
Benefits of empowerment
  • There are benefits to learning to let go
    • Postgrads are aware of weaknesses of the course which lecturers may not notice
    • Research suggests that workers who feel empowered have better morale and are more productive, innovative, creative and committed
  • Takeaway: think less in terms of supporting postgraduates and more in terms of empowering them

Source: Carter, 2009, Am J of Ec and Bus Admin, Managers Empowering Employees