Quis docet doctores? Supporting trainee educators in the delivery of an excellent learning environment

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PRESENTATION

Author(s) Andrew McKinley

Abstract

Active learning environments are an excellent environment for students to develop self-authorship skills and take ownership of their learning, however these require the presence of multiple facilitators to be successful. For these to be successful, an appropriate staff-student ratio must be maintained, resulting often in the employment of graduate teaching assistants (GTA) who often are not as experienced in supporting such environments. Through consideration of graduate research as an ‘academic apprenticeship’, the undertaking of GTA duties is therefore essential as part of professional development, but appropriate training must be considered. We present a model for subject specific GTA training, delivering a transferrable, professionally relevant course aligned with doctoral programme learning outcomes and aligned with Descriptor Level 1 on the UK Professional Standards Framework with the ultimate aim of delivering the best possible learning environment for undergraduate students, while also allowing GTAs to apply for AFHEA recognition.

Outline

Many universities, Swansea University included, deliver general training to GTAs with the aim of covering the basics of teaching and learning, however there is increasing evidence that engagement with such general training can be reduced due to the indirect relation with existing disciplines. By delivering practical pedagogy to GTAs in situ within their own discipline, increased relevance to their own practice is highlighted, and the graduate students start to apply pedagogic practice to their own learning. In delivering this programme, we sought to deliver an institutionally recognised programme, aligned with the learning outcomes of the existing training. This allowed GTAs to be trained in a timely manner for UG teaching, while reducing the strain on central services. The session will introduce the pedagogic ideas introduced to GTAs and will be readily accessible to attendees starting out in their own pedagogic practice, and will likely give some support to those considering their own application under the UKPSF. Additionally there will be ample opportunity for the audience to participate in the discussion regarding developing the teaching practice of others. Through the ‘franchising’ of such training activities to departments, there is better engagement with GTA cohorts, and the experience of having done this across two departments led to a clear positive impact for UG students, particularly in the small-group tutorial setting. Indeed, evidence suggests that the facilitators for the training courses do not necessarily need to be subject specialists themselves, but through enlisting the support of the target department, discipline specific training enhances engagement with all participants. This approach has worked very well in other institutions and will form a central part of the ethos of the newly re-established Department of Chemistry at Swansea. The intended outcome of this session is to inspire attendees to consider the role of GTAs within their own departments and how to better support their development in education, rather than simply considering GTAs as an easy way to improve the staff/student ratio; a better informed and better trained GTA can deliver an excellent learning environment for UGs, as well as enhancing their own employability and professional skills.

Key Words

GTA, AFHEA, Training, Practical-pedagogy, student-experience

Key Messages

Implementation of bespoke training for GTAs leads to a better student experience and more engagement for GTAs seeking to attain AFHEA recognition

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