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Thrown in at the deep end

Thrown in at the deep end in the beginning led this coordinator to take any courses on offer to improve performance. He enjoys the responsibility, autonomy and authority of the role and being in control. However, as his role is primarily teaching he feels less valued as an academic because of the value placed on research. More...

I began coordinating units seven years ago, in 2004. My only previous experience was one semester of clinical sessional tutoring.From the outset in taking up my appointment at the university, two weeks before classes resumed, I felt thrown in at the deep end. With no direction I figured out what to do by myself and with some informal mentoring from staff around me. My first task was to write the unit outline from the beginning as nothing had been prepared in the past. Most of my other early issues centred on Information Technology problems and fortunately the team understood my lack of training so helped me to upload materials for the students. It would have been useful to receive training on unit coordination, managing students, managing staff, using technologies and aligning learning outcomes in the syllabus beforehand. As soon as teaching and learning training courses were offered here I completed them. By then though I had figured out what needed to be done and shared information with others. Most of the training courses I completed were useful in terms of learning new knowledge and demonstrating interesting ways to present information.

I enjoy unit coordination because I like the level of responsibility, the autonomy, the authority and being in control. I enjoy being creative in the ways I design the whole package including the activities and resources I use with the flexibility to refine as I see fit. The administration side of the role appeals to me far less. I find dealing with large numbers of students with requests for extensions and the like tedious. When I deal with student plagiarism incidents or underperforming tutors I feel stressed and distracted from my teaching. Currently I am completing an academic leadership course to assist with some of these elements of unit coordination, including leading tutors.

I know that university teaching staff and teaching activities are far less valued here than research in terms of resourcing and career pathways. As my role is primarily teaching I sometimes feel less valued as an academic, but research is not really something that appeals to me. As the only person available to coordinate the mental health and counselling units until recently, I was not in the position to conduct research. I will need to relinquish some teaching and unit coordination responsibilities if I begin research training. Fortunately, my Head of School is very supportive and has a well rounded understanding of the significance of the teaching input into the school. After all, the bulk of our income is obtained from our high standard of teaching and learning activity.

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