April 25, 2005

Lecturers bored by lessons in teaching

… is the headline on the front cover of the Times Higher Education Supplement last week (April 22nd 2005).

Some young academics are so unimpressed by universities' attempts to teach them how to lecture that they are dismissing their training as a waste of time.

Fortunately, Warwick isn't one of the institutions cited as suffering from this particular malaise, but still, it raises interesting questions:-

  • Do young academics need training to teach?
  • Has the range of skills required changed much over the last few decades?
  • If so, has the training changed accordingly?
  • If training is a good idea, why do (some) young academics seem to resent it?

As is so often the case, I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but they interest me nonetheless. When I (briefly) taught a little bit of Comp Sci, I didn't find it difficult in the sense of requiring skills which I didn't have, but it was tremendously hard work – the preparation, the physical effort of the lectures, the setting of coursework and exams, and oh god, the marking. Not in a hurry to do that again. But I can't think of a way in which training would have helped any of that.

- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. But surely the question is what your students thought of your teaching?!

    25 Apr 2005, 21:33

  2. John Dale

    I'm sure it is. But I was too modest to enumerate my student feedback.

    25 Apr 2005, 22:10

  3. Perhaps the article is really reporting a symptom of the low priority and low status that teaching has in many universities – Warwick included?

    26 Apr 2005, 11:16

  4. You could argue that the difficulty of the teaching depends on how well equipped the students are to cope with it. That is to say, if the students have good generic and subject specific study and research skills, the lecturer has to work less. It is also dependent upon how big a conceptual shift the lecture content requires.

    Some modules may be delivered to well equipped students, and may only aim to extend their current knowledge. Whereas others might attempt to teach them new skills and new concepts at the same time. I would say that this more difficult teaching would require specialist skills. Perhaps that's why such modules are often best taught by more experienced lecturers?

    26 Apr 2005, 17:16

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