Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Supporting new tertiary teachers

Recommendations for improving teaching by early career academics were discussed at the Australian National University Teaching & Learning Forum, 16 October 2009. The ANU has conducted a survey on issue with Early Career Academics (ECAs) and made recommendations (results are available to staff). Much of this would be applicable more widely for teaching at other universities.

One result I found interesting was that only 36% of the ECAs were full time staff. The others are sessional, part time and "other". The result is that many programs designed to help new staff, such as induction training, are not available to the people they are intended for. This will become more of an issue as more flexible and online courses are introduced. In some cases the teacher may never be on the campus during office hours when support is available, or may never be on campus at all.

The obvious way to address this issue is with programs which use similar technologies and resources to the online students. That is the resources should be available online, supplemented by on campus facilities.

Other issues are the tension between teaching and research at the university. There is a danger in overly rigid procedures for teaching, as to some extent, it has to be lead by the research to get the benefits of the unviersity environment.

ANU has an innovative approach in this area by emphasising research in support of teaching, so that they complement, rather than compete.

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