Lectures are cut to learn how to teach

October 21, 2005

New lecturers will have their teaching load halved to allow them to learn how to teach under an innovative scheme launched by De Montfort University.

Three fellowships are funded through De Montfort's £4.5 million Centre of Excellence in Performance Practice, one of the network of Centres of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (Cetls) established by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Most universities expect academics, particularly those at the start of their careers, to undergo teacher training. But, as The Times Higher reported in April, many academics believe such training is an unnecessary addition to their already heavy workloads.

Rob Brannen, head of De Montfort's department of performing arts and English, said he hoped the scheme would become a model for other institutions.

"For many of us, the first year of teaching is the hardest thing you ever do. You're preparing things as you go and chasing your own tail for a lot of the time. This is giving new lecturers beginning their career the space to learn about what it means to teach," he said.

De Montfort has appointed three teaching fellows - Amalia Garcia, Marie Hay and Sophy Smith - from 90 applicants. Their teaching load has been halved to between 200 and 250 hours during their one-year contract. This will allow them to shadow experienced staff, observe classes, take courses on pedagogic techniques and carry out teaching research projects within the Cetl.

Ms Garcia said: "I want to teach and pass my passion on to the students.

Hopefully, this will give me lots of confidence about teaching."

Ms Hay, who formerly taught in further education, said: "The way I would deal with (university) students is very different (from further education students). Discipline is not the first thing on your mind."

Cliff Allan, director of programmes for the Higher Education Academy, said fellowships enabled individuals to become champions in researching and developing approaches to learning and teaching that could then inform other staff.

Institutions were "well on the way" to meeting the Government's 2006 target for all new staff to be able to pursue professional standards, Mr Allen said.


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