Coordinating large classes

Coordinating two physical science units with student numbers in excess of 550 led this coordinator to feel overwhelmed, despite being supported by 10 sessional staff. As a humanities expert she feels uncertain at times and would appreciate greater clarity about her role. More...

Three years ago I began co-coordinating two engineering service units. Both units are large with cohorts of approximately 580 students each semester. While I find the role overwhelming at times, I enjoy what I am doing and love the challenges the job offers. Both units are supported by up to ten sessional staff so as unit co-coordinators we develop all the material for the staff and take responsibility for moderation among tutors. This means we share preparation of the weekly PowerPoint presentations and all the teaching resources required. Co-coordination involves many hours to organise meetings and develop appropriate resources. We meet regularly and often to ensure the technical content required by the engineers is matched to our assessments. Coordination also involves assessing student reports, presentations and project diaries with the technical tutors, so each assessment item is double marked. One of the units is the only one focussed on oral presentation skills for engineering students. As a hands-on unit it is project based and typical of the real industry environment students will face on graduation.

I assumed this position when the previous person moved aside and fortunately she remained available for information and updates. Despite this I ‘sniffed’ my way through unit coordination alone and worked closely with the engineering department to be sure I was meeting their first year students’ needs. My own department provided no preparation or support. Despite co-coordinating these units only the engineering academics’ names appear on both student unit outlines so there is no official acknowledgement of my contribution.

Despite this lack of acknowledgment I feel valued and enjoy my work. When I see the student results and their feedback I am happy. At the end of each semester when we review the units many of my suggestions and recommendations are listen to and often embraced. Any changes to both units are only made after discussion with all teaching staff involved in a collaborative manner. I would like to receive more support with assessments. Sometimes I worry that as an academic from the humanities I see the world from a different perspective to many engineers. If I need to make changes to improve I would like to know. It would also be useful to receive information describing the duties and responsibilities of unit coordination so it is clear how much flexibility I have and to know who is responsible for final decisions. I have few problems with the engineering and communication tutors because I have built and maintain a strong rapport with them.

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