It’s now over a month since I left my ‘thirdspace‘ role working as a Learning Developer for the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull to start my academic career. Being a Learning Developer, however, was a job I loved in a profession I adored. I had amazing colleagues, and we were so close we were like a family. I am happy to admit it was hard to walk away from all of that, but now that I am a month in, I am convinced it has been a great move.
The lead-in to my academic career in education
There was a time I would have thought I’d end up in a geography department. Yet – I’ve come to realise the School of Education has fit like a glove. I’ve done a Doctorate in Education; worked as a Learning Developer; worked as an Education, Research and Policy Co-ordinator; volunteered as a school governor, am currently the chair of governors at two schools; adopted three children with my husband, and am a trustee of a local community charity. How could I not see education as where I was meant to be?
More than anything, I am so thankful for working on a recent visit day with a local college. Speaking to those prospective students affirmed to me that I was in the right place and had the right experience to share. Everything I have worked towards led me down this career trajectory. Funnily enough, it was one of my new colleagues made this connection for me. I am, indeed, in the right place!
Teaching as an academic
The teaching has been everything I could have hoped. The master’s content is mostly pre-defined, and we’re delivering set content. This is great, as it ensures students get consistent provision, but our workshops provide enough flexibility to ensure we leave a mark and adapt to our students’ needs. The dissertation module has also been restructured, and it has given me some opportunities to get involved. I’ve covered some lectures for a colleague and have helped to develop the sessions around literature reviews. Alongside the level 7 content, I’ve been fortunate to be part of one of the new level 6 modules. As it is new, nothing is written – and it gives real freedom to write and teach content in the direction we like.
I’m yet to miss the materials I’ve previously delivered for the Skills Team – but given the modules I’m focused on, it’s been very similar content to what I’ve done before. I’ve also been able to retain support for the Postgraduate Training Scheme (PGTS), and I am still teaching on Modern Researcher 2. It’s been nice to keep something a little familiar and be able to continue this small piece.
One of the prime differences to this context of teaching from the Skills Team is that I am part of the team setting/marking the assessment. As such, when I give students assessment advice, I can do so in confidence – knowing it will link to the expectations of the course team.
I’m still awaiting my module allocations for trimester 2, and I look forward to seeing what that will bring. All in good time…
Although students are at the heart of everything we do and permeate academic practice, it feels wrong not to draw specific attention to this. I’m really beginning to get to know some of the students, what motivates them and what their research interests are. As I’ve mentioned, we have a very international cohort, which has provided me with excellent opportunities to learn more about different educational systems. I’m so impressed with the passion and drive these students have, and I can’t wait to see what they do.
There is also some level of nerves. What will those mid-module reviews reveal? How will the summative module evaluation questionnaires reveal? At assessment – how will the students do? There are only some small nerves here, but I think this is important. It helps me keep student interest at the forefront of my mind.
Ironically, even though I have ‘left’ Learning Development, I’ve had more time for Learning Development scholarship this last few weeks than I have done in years. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve not got time to burn, but I have some scholarship time in my workload. That’s never happened explicitly before. I’ve been able to get a funding bid in with some colleagues, write a short journal article (brief communication) and serve as a guest editor of JLDHE, taking four articles through to completion. There is much more on the cards, and I have a book chapter to write for January, which I am looking forward to! Right now, however, my focus has to be the PCAP – and finishing my research project which focuses on analysing the Compendium of Innovative Practice: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. More on that another time ?
All this scholarship fits in so well with my new role – and I look forward to seeing how it can impact student learning in my modules and programmes. I’ve also joined JLDHE as a permanent editor, and as I teach on the level 6 and level 7 research and dissertation modules, it’s a great fit with my teaching practice too. I’m learning a lot more about research and peer review as every week goes by – and great learning to pass on to my students.
Key reflections on my academic journey so far
As I have reflected upon over several of my previous blogs, this role is giving me the thing I wanted more than anything – the ability to scaffold learning and develop meaningful relationships with students. I’m now in my seventh week of teaching, which means I’ve seen some of my students for over 14 hours of contact time. We’ve got to know each other, connect and work on contemporary educational debates. I can’t wait to see what they focus on in their assessments. Marking and feedback will also be something I enjoy – yet another part of the academic cycle I’ve long been excluded from in my previous role.
So far, I’ve blogged about:
- One of my early reflections focused on teaching my first workshops. I focused on those initial connections with students, and the joy of my allocated modules.
- Next up, I was able to think about some of the contractual changes and broader opportunities/responsibilities associated with my first (official) week as a lecturer.
- For week 2, I focused on re-engaging with assessment & feedback. I was intentional in calling this ‘re-engagement’ as I have done assessment and feedback before – it has just been some time!
- Finally, my last post drew attention to Personal Supervision and to what extent it was new or not.
As you can tell from the introduction, this was a huge move for me. Leaving a workplace and career after ten years was a risk, but it is something that is paying off very well.