Written by Dr Alan Brailsford, Postdoctoral Analyst, Analytical & Environmental Sciences
Working at a university with around 29,000 students it isn’t surprising that the prospect of at least some involvement in teaching will occur during our life as researchers at King’s, and for those of us keen to contribute there is no shortage of opportunities. However, teaching involvement raises certain questions: How much time can we commit to? How will any extra workload impact on our primary roles (papers, grants etc)? What are the benefits of teaching involvement?
As researchers we are hardly short of things to do during the working day (and frequently beyond), therefore finding additional time to devout to teaching can be difficult. The best way to resolve this conflict would seem to be open conversations with our line managers, to establish what level of teaching commitment can be realistically achieved given our other responsibilities. Such conversations can of course occur at anytime, but perhaps are most appropriate during a PDR. Not only is this the time for current contributions to be acknowledged, but future teaching input for the year ahead can be agreed upon by both parties, and any compromises regarding other responsibilities made (after all, there are only so many hours in the day). For example, the teaching commitment can be outlined as either a percentage of work time, or total hours over the year, therefore taking into account the inevitable fluctuations in the teaching load. Activities can easily be recorded and monitored through the Teaching Database, which has improved over the last few years and something as researchers we should be filling in to officially record our contribution. Furthermore, it maybe that after taking into account your teaching load it is necessary to review other commitments, for instance getting an agreement to push back other deadlines, or to pass on responsibilities.
Given the inevitable impact on other activities it is important that any teaching contribution is both beneficial to the individual and recognised by the university. Personally, I enjoy the interactions with students and seeing them grow and improve of the year I spend with them is highly rewarding. Project supervision while time consuming can be great for getting small projects done that I never quite get round to. Teaching can also be used to gain additional qualifications such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practise in Higher Education, which not only helps your CV but is beneficial for anyone wishing to pursue a career involving education.
As for recognition, in the longer term universities are increasingly offering career progression based on teaching related activates. More immediately though, recognition needs to come from within the department to those making a contribution, and more widely from the faculty and university, something which I know is being reviewed by King’s at the moment.
So in summary, for those wishing to be involved in teaching, both the opportunities and the benefits are there. But to be maximised successfully time management and establishing realistic expectations and goals are important.