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Teaching on short term contracts

After many years at his university this Unit Coordinator remains on contract employment. He describes his pleasure in working with previously unseen material, introducing different teaching strategies and recognising research opportunities. More...

My employment began here sixteen years ago after I completed my undergraduate qualifications in micro-biology and embarked on PhD studies. From the outset I began on a short term contract and I am still employed on this basis. The shortest notice I received to pick up a unit was four days and the maximum number of units I have coordinated in one year is seven. Fortunately I have an interest in teaching, enjoy my work and feel valued by my supervising colleague.

When I first began teaching I received little guidance so had to find out how to do things for myself. For example, the only information I received for the first unit I taught was the unit title. I knew I needed to rewrite the lectures so simply settled down and wrote them. In my early teaching days I became familiar with policy and procedures through trial and error. The most serious situation I found myself in centred on not knowing I needed to write a semester exam until the day before it was due. I solved the problem by writing the exam overnight.

When beginning a new unit I am excited by the challenge of working with previously unseen material so use the textbook to select what looks interesting and important. I work to make my units valuable learning experiences for undergraduate and post graduate students. Despite the effort it takes to organise well, I like to use excursions to interest students in my teaching units, and earlier this year I received a competitive teaching and learning citation for my work.

Because my employment remains on a casual basis I have taken some risks, such as establishing an anonymous online discussion board to open up discussion on controversial issues. I support students to focus on evidence and remove emotion from their argument. I encourage students to develop critical thinking and to look at all the evidence to obtain a balanced view of an issue. By adopting an ethical and trusting approach towards my students they invariably respond in a mature manner.

While there has been little time for me to engage in research I have co-written collaborative research reports. Currently I also manage a graduate attribute project designed to map graduate attributes and then eliminate the overlaps in our teaching and learning program.

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