Supporting university learning and teaching

As Director of a T & L unit, supporting the coordinators is seen as critical. The development of an e-planner was an important step in alleviating some of the administration headaches from their role. More...

As Director of the University Teaching Unit I lead the team that runs workshops for our university coordinators and anyone else interested in attending. We work together as a team of ten in a liaison role to support lecturers supporting a student body of approximately 18000 students and any staff who require teaching assistance. On request we also prepare courses for teaching coordinators and Executive Deans. Our focus is on assisting unit coordinators to manage large classes, to use technology and to manage internationalisation issues. We do not address issues of isolation or ways to show we value staff unless requested for a specific audience. Generally, our clientele fit into four categories; lecturers who attend everything we offer, others who attend though wish to attend more often, some who attend and do not return, plus the older academics and engineers. In my role, on occasion, I coordinate guest presentations by national and international teaching specialists who address issues such as enhancing the first year student experience and educational leadership.

One of our recent innovations is the development of an e-planner. We know that lecturers are often allocated units to coordinate at short notice and are unaware of academic deadlines. For example, new unit coordinators do not know when to order text books, book rooms for exams, request the placement of books on closed reserve or register for training sessions. The e-planner includes numerous checklists for unit coordinators and is attached to outlook express for day to day academic administration. It does not however, provide information about training for leadership in teaching and learning in the university setting. While the unit is fortunate to receive general support from the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) such support does not extend to adequate financial assistance to achieve our goals. For example to influence strategic teaching objectives we require greater funding but the emphasis on research here is far stronger than teaching and learning.

Sometimes I feel restrained in my role. On the one hand due to union restrictions I am unable to access student data to undertake longitudinal comparisons. On the other hand, sometimes I am encouraged when initiatives such as compulsory unit coordinator peer observation and peer review proposals are supported as a means to lead university teaching and learning.

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