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Supporting unit coordinators

As Head of a new clinical school, there was nothing in place and progress was made difficult for unit coordinators who were professional clinicians rather than academics. He sees his role as supportive and clearly outlines his expectations with new staff. He operates in a ‘fluid’ environment and relies heavily on the goodwill of staff, while also relying on the T & L team and student services for advice and practical assistance. More...

I am Head of a new clinical school, something of a rarity in a university setting. We started from nothing which made progress difficult for our unit coordinators as many are professional clinicians rather than academics. All unit coordinators here are required to complete the tertiary teaching course offered on campus. In the early years teaching and coordination loads in the school were high so people learnt quickly. As Head of School I see that most of the preparation for unit coordination involves training in individual procedural requirements, for example flexible delivery methods, rather than a complete package. Usually unit coordinators manage to learn about their role through trial and error, as I did. I often see new unit coordinators lean heavily on mentorship programs or pair up with another seasoned unit coordinator for tips.

In this school each unit coordinator is the primary lecturer and is also responsible for any laboratory and workshop sessions involved in the unit. I regard them as leading learning at the coalface. I help out as much as I can though generally rely on our Program Chairs and administration assistants for help. When possible I sit down with new coordinators and tell them ‘Here is your Program Chair, she is familiar with what you are trying to put together so lean on her. Here is the administration assistant I want you to work with so let her help you through the system’. I want to see that unit coordinators understand the value of their time so they are not wasting time photocopying and such, when they are not teaching, but instead are working on research, community service or off-shore programs. There is no formal structure and the system is best described as ‘fluid’.

I find the Teaching and Learning team helpful for procedural matters, for mapping our unit outcomes and evaluating our assessments, and the Student Services team provide enormous policy support. Any other support for unit coordinators is provided at the school level. For example, tomorrow we have a regular mid semester workshop scheduled, to sit together as a staff to discuss our work and how we can assess our students better. I often see unit coordinators so busy with their teaching, they suddenly realise their exam is due and find there is only time to ‘tweak’ last years for reuse. I want to see some reflection occurring and shared among unit coordinators.

I see a lot of goodwill across our school. Although we are spread across the campus we know each other well and follow an informal, open door policy. We have a loose workload management system and I know people work hard and long hours. The Vice Chancellor’s Awards and Teaching and Learning Awards are valuable forms of reward and a joy to receive nomination for. However, I know many unit coordinators refuse to continue with their nomination when they learn of the paperwork and effort involved in the process.

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