I have been a unit coordinator in three different higher education settings. In each situation, whether related to Information Technology or Engineering, I found there is no common definition for the role as it is depends on the context. At another university I had little autonomy and any change I made required approval from the Teaching and Learning Committee within the school. When I worked in a School of Engineering the Unit Coordinators determined the curriculum for a suite of units and worked as a collaborative team. In my current position I am free to run the unit as I wish provided I maintain the overall conceptual outcomes required for the unit. I generally consult with others but sometimes make decisions on my own. Because we map the required graduate attributes in our units it is not difficult to fit each unit into the whole course we are teaching.
As a Unit Coordinator of first year students I feel hopeless. The role is much more about pastoral care than with the experienced students and I make wrong assumptions about their confidence and what they have and haven’t the ability to achieve. It seems the same with external students who also need some hand holding. I like my students to learn for themselves rather than rely on me telling them. Recently I changed a first year assignment from a series of questions that involved reading the text and rote learning. Students now address the same issues in a number of case studies and do some of the thinking for themselves. By the time students reach third year, I find they require less care and attention so, I expect them to learn with me guiding them.
Since returning from study leave I feel quite positive about my work and felt an ‘absolute buzz’ on finishing my first class. I would feel more positive if I was not so overwhelmed by the amount of teaching administration required in the role. Sometimes it takes away my sense of being in control. I like to keep up to date in my field, especially for my third year classes, and keeping material current takes time. Last year I logged my daily work for two semesters and found 80% of my time was related to teaching but was not teaching. Instead I was tied up with administration unrelated to preparing or delivering my teaching materials. In the past I would spend one evening a week in the office, browsing recent literature to keep up to date but I don’t have time for that during semester any more.
My next professional development review will be my chance to explain what changes I want to see here, the professional development I would like to complete and what that means from an industry and personal perspective. We are encouraged to align our research interests and teaching to increase our job satisfaction and motivation. My higher degree studies involved education because I wanted to know the theory behind tertiary teaching and because I do not like lecturing I often deliver workshops with more leeway for using contemporary knowledge.