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Leading others in the school

This Unit Coordinator describes her work with numerous part time, experienced teaching staff. She describes her successful strategies to ensure consistency across the teaching units. Her strategy to combine her teaching and research interests is also mentioned. More...

This is my sixth year as an academic after my appointment directly from a primary school position. I gained teaching experience across several primary schools while also acquiring leadership experience in that setting. When I first arrived here I joined the faculty which was later split into a number of university schools. I learnt to work as an academic and to coordinate units in two of these schools before settling into my role as discipline coordinator. From the outset I found the staff here highly sessionalised and much of my work still involves administration and unit coordination.

All sessional staff in this school are practising teachers. When they begin I talk with them about our general assumptions and make sure we share the same understandings about university teaching and learning. It is a mistake to assume that others work the same way I do. I work with sessional staff to refresh old units and develop new ones because this helps make managing the units easier for us all. Sometimes I use extra resource funds to invite sessional staff to dinner and pamper them to show my appreciation for their work. Because I understand the responsibility for these units rests with me I am clear about my role and task oriented. On occasion my skills are needed to manage poor staff relationships and I work to avoid being caught up in these. Over the past three years staff groups are becoming more autonomous and the current sessional group is fantastic.

I regard our units as successful based on the strong student evaluation and feedback received. I deliver all highly theoretical lectures to take the pressure off others, and we use an authentic classroom for our ‘hands on’ tutorials. When other lecturers and sessional staff ask to deliver lectures I am delighted to see their aspirations are increasing. At some universities, I know students often miss lectures. Here students attend our lectures and our tutorials are still full at the end of semester.

I see some tension between the teaching and research expectations of staff. With several research projects on the go and the accompanying administration to be managed I aim to carve out regular time for my research. At some universities support staff is available to assist but that is not the case here. Each week I put aside two days for research but often find other responsibilities cut into my research time. I work to be strategic and marry my research and teaching agendas but I am easily diverted.

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