Seeking a tree change

After a career in business this Unit Coordinator made the shift into academia. His interest in teaching and learning is strong as is his interest in student welfare. More...

While I mentor 400 students it is something I learnt to do, as I am not a natural teacher. Initially I left the business world for a ‘tree change’ and tutored students enrolled in a communication program. I designed the program and wrote the first unit for the course. When there was no one available to teach the unit someone else was employed to do so and I was expected to train them. Later that semester a colleague contacted me when several tutors let her down. I volunteered to help and stayed for three years as a sessional staff member to develop a teaching package for industry. For the past seven years I been employed as a full time academic and stepped up as unit coordinator six times.

In this school, I am the only member of the Higher Education Research and Development Association, the only one who attended a recent diversity conference and I feel a better teacher for my involvement. When I first started here I simply stepped in and got on with the job but not everyone is able to do that. Forty percent of the teaching here is conducted by sessional staff and far too many have never taught in the discipline before. They are not well looked after and there is no face to face training here for sessional staff as everything is online. Last year an experienced sessional staff member was removed from all computer access and then re-signed by the Dean the week before classes began. Unit coordinators are expected to listen, offer advice and help out despite this assistance not being in the workload.

Many of my students are international enrolments and they face huge pressures. Often they experience problems with their visas, struggle with their studies and are unable to discuss these issues with their parents. I believe these students are often not ‘work ready’ when they graduate. I see many international students begin with poor English speaking, reading and writing skills and who often drop behind in their studies. Just before exams there is a frantic rush to catch up, revision questions are asked on-line and in class, their workload increases and they express their irritation in the unit evaluation reports. Our school management is uncomfortable with me when I highlight these issues to them.

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