Teaching: on the front line

November 7, 2003

What is your experience of teaching? Pat Leon asks teachers how they manage

Name : Dorothy Stratford

Age : Fiftysomething

Job : Faculty academic liaison librarian (engineering, science and mathematics), University of Southampton

Salary : £28K

Qualifications : BA (Trinity, Dublin), Dip Lib (Queen's Belfast), MCLIP (Member of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals), ILTM (Institute for Learning and Teaching).

Experience : I've come full circle, returning to the university library site where I began my professional career more than 30 years ago. In between I had breaks to have children and lived in France, where I taught English. I have worked as a medical librarian in higher education and in the National Health Service, and at the university's widening participation campus.

Hours spent teaching : This varies, but has been up to ten hours a week, including during vacations when students from distance-learning courses tend to come on campus. The university is restructuring. Instead of seven faculties we have shrunk to three and budget responsibility has gone to the 20 schools. We have reorganised library staff to link into this new pattern. My remit includes learning and teaching, so I've been busy writing a strategy. One idea is to go out into the schools and hold "surgeries" with students and researchers.

Hours on red tape : Not a significant part of the job.

Hours on research : I'm not research active in the accepted way, but spend several hours a week on the scholarship of teaching in its widest sense and/or disseminating what I've learnt. Together with colleagues, I have designed, delivered and assessed a ten-credit unit on "information handling skills", which was a big challenge.

Teaching bugbears : Never being 100 per cent sure that the technology will work. It also annoys me that some academics view information literacy as an optional bolt-on rather than as an essential part of the curriculum. I'd like to change this. I see myself as a champion of Southampton's off-campus student - whether 20 or 2,000 miles away, they should receive an equivalent educational experience as regards access to library resources. If, for example, the teaching programme is run in China where there's internet censorship, students may not have access to the full range of resources.

How would you solve it? Greater dialogue. I'm also a great believer in the personal approach. When talking about how we can support the student learning experience, I hope my enthusiasm will help the process of change.

We are constructing what is called the "student entitlement framework". It moves away from the idea that aiding students with dyslexia, or with their study skills or essay writing, is remedial work but is an entitlement. It is also about helping a student turn a 2.1 into a first.

Teaching pleasures : Helping students to find information. Library staff find that not very confident students, who may be on the verge of dropping out, will talk to their academic liaison librarian because they see us as neutral.

Worst teaching moment : When a student left my class 20 minutes early and put on the feedback sheet that there hadn't been enough time to do the exercise.

Funniest moment : I was teaching research skills to some third years in a large room with a gallery area. Students were coming in and out, chatting away. One of my students piped up "Shut the **** up, we're trying to listen!" They all stopped in their tracks.

Outside interests : Walking by the sea, holidaying off the beaten track, bird-watching, my two cats, and good food and wine with friends, not forgetting our close-knit, if scattered, families.

Please login or register to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments