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Developing sessional staff

This coordinator supervises 30 sessional staff. To engender a consistent pedagogical approach with students she approached the T & L unit to develop a training program, which engaged staff strongly. Feeling isolated arises from work in a specialist area and limited collaboration opportunities. More...

I moved directly into university teaching and unit coordination after leaving my industry position twelve years ago. In those early days I learnt about unit coordination through trial and error. If induction and training courses were offered I didn’t know about them. I found that if a strategy or activity I tried worked well then I would reuse it, and if it did not work well, then I would modify and make improvements to it myself. These days it appears there is a stronger support structure in place and if I want to find out something, I know who to ask.

One unit I am responsible for also involves coordinating 30 sessional staff. The unit has a huge impact on our students so I contacted people in the teaching and learning unit for some assistance. I wanted sessional staff to shift from expecting students to simply sit and listen and instead to understand how to engage with students while working with them. The training sessions were tailored for me to enhance my delivery of important material to the sessional staff while also enabling me to demonstrate support for them. I gauged staff interest then found out when most were available to attend training sessions before progressing. Such preparation and planning is time consuming in a busy workload but worthwhile. Most sessional staff members are practitioners, not teachers, so they welcomed then engaged strongly with the training offered to them. I will offer the training session again next year because I think changes like this take time. I have sown the seeds for change and I know further nurturing is necessary to maintain the changes.

Overall I rate my job satisfaction above average though I would like more time to do the things that make a good unit a great unit. I know I am valued by my Head of School as she offers feedback and we collaborate in our work.  Working with students is satisfying for me and I enjoy many ‘aha’ moments with them. Sometimes I feel isolated working in one unit rather than coordinating a course. Because I work in a specialised area there are not many people with the right background so I coordinate all aspects of the unit. In my area this includes finding placement sites for student practicum, fieldwork and, collecting and moderating student portfolios. This will change in the future as our student and sessional staff numbers increase.

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