My first year of teaching

My supervisor encouraged me to teach, pretty much from the early months of my PhD. Having run many training and development workshops in the past, I thought that teaching final year and postgraduate students wouldn’t be such a big leap, right? Wrong. The student-academic dynamic is very different. I have now taught final year undergraduates and Masters’ students, developed course material and taught small groups, individuals and delivered training to large groups.

This is what I have learned:

  • Listening is important. Probably the most important thing to do. I learned to listen carefully to students’ aspirations for their course, what they hoped to do in future with their degree and why they selected a particular thesis topic. Understanding the personal context of their studies helped me to explore how their learning could be made more relevant to their overall objectives for studying.
  • Ask searching questions. Even if I thought their project was unfeasible, I learned to ask students to explain how they would go about answering their research question, how they could collect their data, and even asked them to go out and try to find the relevant data before even completing their literature review. Students needed my guidance, not my control.
  • Believe in them. Even with students who seemed disengaged, I went back to my supervisor for advice and kept trying different approaches with them. Even while being candid about how they needed to improve, I always believed that they could improve and never gave up on them.
  • Ask them to submit written work as early as possible. Most students are marked on their written work, so they needed to understand how important it was to write. And then re-write, as early as possible.

I love teaching. It is exhausting, frustrating and distracts me from my PhD, but it is a privilege and a genuine joy. It has also helped me in my reading, writing and research: brushing up on aspects of business studies that are not core to my PhD has got me out of the narrow confine that is a PhD. Also, trying to explain a complex concept to someone else, helped me understand it more thoroughly. If you are offered the opportunity to teach while studying, then go for it!

Way to the Knowledge tomsumartin