This is my second experience as a unit coordinator since becoming an academic. My first position was in the School of Nursing where I was appointed ‘Lecturer’ after completing several short term casual contracts. The school was still being established so with little guidance I was a unit coordinator of three units, without any curriculum. Along with others I quickly gained a detailed knowledge about the structure and content of the course as it developed. Led by the Head of School we fitted the material together and all became familiar with the content of other units in the course. I enjoyed the work and after reflection realised what I didn’t know so made improvements the second time through. When the opportunity arose to teach in an area more closely linked to my biomedical background I moved to another school.
In this school the course is well established with strong support for teaching across units. There is more flexibility within the curriculum and I find the working environment better because all responsibility for the unit is not resting on my shoulders. I work more independently of the Head of School now and see my role as tailoring or constructing the unit for my students in keeping with my own academic background. I deliver a third year unit and student feedback indicates my students are looking for career guidance, in addition to core unit information, from me. For those interested in a research career I provide some leadership or guidance to help them take the pathway into a research environment.
It is still difficult to make sweeping unit changes but I can tweak the content and shape the material as I see fit. I find assessment the biggest issue in my experience as a unit coordinator and feel this is the area I am most nervous about and least supported in. I worry that I am not using problem solving assessment strategies well enough to be certain of student progress. Although I use demonstrators to assist in the laboratory classes I mark all assessments myself. With more than one hundred students it means I sometimes rush my marking. While I attended university teaching and learning professional development much of the information was generic. I would like more practical guidance and opportunities to examine a variety of assessment forms. That way I could become more creative and deliver assessment in a more interesting and challenging way for my students.
I’d like to see some senior people, such as the Head of School or the Program Chair, organise a teachers’ group to increase the communication among unit coordinators. If I tried to organise such a group at my level it would fall in a complete heap because people will say they are too busy to meet. I want to see a change in culture engendered from the top down so that it becomes a core practice in the school. We have begun some conversation about establishing a mentor scheme in the school and that could also increase the communication among unit coordinators