Leading not managing

After many years this Unit Coordinator remains convinced that teaching is undervalued and unsupported in her university. Alone she introduced innovation into her units and sees herself as a leader in her discipline. More...

I have coordinated units in my discipline, design practice management, here for the past seven years and for three years before that at another university. Unfortunately, I remain convinced that teaching is severely undervalued in the university context and, in my experience, if managers are unaware of what an academic is doing then they may not provide the appropriate support. My first years of unit coordination were demanding and I felt isolated much of the time. It was difficult not knowing who to ask for information and I found my first Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning unhelpful. For some reason it was assumed that newcomers know all about university operations and processes. Luckily, as the daughter of two academics, I knew some excellent senior level academics that I approached for help. It still took me three years to settle properly into the role.

As unit coordinator I constantly change my teaching program to make my classes relevant to my students, interesting for me, and to lead the learning. With responsibility for the largest class in the school I deal with huge diversity, provide pastoral care and provide on line assistance to students. In my tutorials I encourage one team of students to present to the others so there is an element of game playing, and then I help them apply the learning feedback from their peers. In another unit I bring in an industry speaker weekly. Industry experts and graduates are excellent exemplars for students to see how the business world operates and the potential careers open to them. Students tell me that my lessons are great. I regularly collect and publish data on my teaching and learning and I am preparing to publish longitudinal data collected from my third year students.

I now see my role as leader in my discipline rather than manager. It has been in my own interests to develop supportive networks external to my discipline and my school so I participate in teaching and learning communities as much as possible. These communities permit inter disciplinary conversations appropriate for design thinking, recognise good teaching practice, encourage self determination and provide emotionally intelligent support. I value diversity and self reflection so enjoy meeting new people from different backgrounds. I already use on-line tools for collaboration and discussion with my students and my local and overseas colleagues both within and outside my own discipline. Membership of one teaching and learning community currently enables me to participate in an on-line pilot study learning to develop an evaluation tool, peer review and build problem resources around technology.

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