Sunday, April 15, 2012

Training University Tutors

Recently I took part in an online discussion on if postgraduate university students should be trained to teach. This discussion started from a US perspective where many postgraduate students supplement their income by teaching. Opinions ranged from those which said that only those who are going to be teaching need teacher training, to those arguing that teaching is an inherent part of being an academic. In my view this goes beyond just academia: many teaching skills are useful even if you are not intended to be a researcher. In business, government or industry you will need to communicate knowledge and skills, then assess how successful that communication has been, which is what education is about. So being trained how to teach will help professionals generally. My preference would be to have a formal course at university which those who are going to teach and also graduate students do.

But that is all very abstract. From a practical point of view, the Educational Development Group at the Australian National University (ANU), College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), run a CECS Teaching Quality Program (TQP), as a Community of Practice for CECS tutors. This is a total of seven hours, with a three hour induction session ("Introduction to Tutoring in CECS") at the start of each semester and a one hour seminar every second week for four weeks.

  1. Time management and priority setting
  2. Being a student centred tutor
  3. Plain English for Computer Scientists and Engineers: What it is and how to give feedback so that students improve
  4. Marking effectively

The New Tutor Induction covers:

  1. Rights and Responsibilities in teaching and learning: This session will cover the policies that govern small group teaching practice in each Research, the Code of Practice for Tutors
  2. Good practice and the role of the facilitator: individual reflections on the different ways in which students learn and the role of the tutor or demonstrator to facilitate student learning.
  3. What student’s might already know and dealing with misconceptions: why students might have difficulties in class and how misconceptions or preconceived ideas that students bring to class may contribute to these difficulties.
  4. Managing expectations: This session will be shaped around active group work and discussions to explore what you expect of yourself, your students and how you can go about conveying those expectations to your class.
  5. Starting off on the right foot and motivating students: A practical discussion focusing on how to set up organised, interactive and meaningful learning experiences for your students from the very first lesson.
Tutors are provided with a two page code of practice, with versions for Computer Science and Engineering tutors:

It should be noted these sessions are for tutors and there are further programs for lecturers, up to a PHD in education.

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