Stepping up to unit coordination

This coordinator started out as a tutor and took over a unit when the coordinator left. She creatively changed things and made it her own which the students loved. She feels well supported and developed a sound pedagogical philosophy. More...

My first experience as unit coordinator arose four years ago when a colleague became ill. The unit was popular with students and they were disappointed the regular coordinator was unavailable. I knew I couldn’t replicate the unit for them so I offered it externally instead. All the lecture materials used previously were available to me so I used those and also ran three on-campus workshops so that students could meet each other and share their learning experiences. Although it was a challenge, I learnt a lot while running the workshops and from the students. I felt a little sour that I was paid as a tutor, and had to ask for payment for the many hours I spent preparing and coordinating the unit before the Head of School grudgingly agreed. I was not offered a part time contract until the next year when several senior staff resigned to join another university.

Senior staff leaving the university at short notice provided a great opportunity for tutors and I was one of several appointed to a part time position without an interview for the position. My contract is to teach two units each year. In reality though, in the past eighteen months I designed three new units, then coordinated them and delivered them to students. In one example of designing new units, I combined Honours’ and Masters’ units previously run informally into formal research seminars. They required formal and informal assessment and by inviting students from other degrees the class numbers grew from eight the first year to thirty four this year. In another unit I introduced elements to help students plan, design and write an honours thesis as preparation for higher degree studies. I now coordinate the Masters’ thesis units for students who are ready to lodge their ethics applications and begin their research.

I love my work and although I am paid for part time work I actually work full time. Luckily I have support from colleagues. On the one hand, I know that if I ask them questions they will always help me and on the other hand, if I don’t ask questions they leave me to get on with my work because they trust my judgement. While I found people in the teaching and learning unit helpful I was already naturally a collaborative and student centred teacher. I do not like ‘spoon-feeding’ students so instead I facilitate sessions and encourage students to locate information themselves. I always receive good feedback from the students as they appreciate my openness and availability -so I feel valued by my colleagues and my students. When my contract lapses in a couple of months my position will be advertised. I am hoping to be interviewed and offered a new contract especially as our Vice Chancellor has requested that I attend a new leadership program beginning next month.

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