Teaching: on the front line

January 16, 2004

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

Name : Jude Davies

Age : 38

Job : Senior lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies, King Alfred's College, Winchester

Salary : Bottom of principal lecturer scale.

Qualifications : BA English (University College London); DPhil (York)

Experience : As a PhD student at York, induction into teaching was individual and informal. I learnt by following interests, asking questions, copying and adapting. At King Alfred's, I was mentored and have taken several in-house staff development courses.

When I started teaching, I was training students to be critical readers of culture, equipping them with what punk bands used to call "bull**** detectors". Now I think there's a positive element to it involving values and encounters with different identities and cultures. Teaching itself involves quite a lot of "bull**** detection" to ensure that students are pushed hard enough to get the best out of their programmes.

Hours spent teaching : About ten hours a week when I start back from a semester's sabbatical on February 9. I'm refreshed and looking forward to it.

Hours on red tape : 15 to 20 a week. Interdisciplinarity - linking English literature, cultural studies and American studies - is big in most of what I do. I am programme director of our MA in contemporary literature and we are planning interdisciplinary masters programmes, which should be validated this semester. I'm also on the British Association of American Studies executive. A certain amount of tedium is necessary on all committees to ensure academic democracy.

Hours on research : One day a week when not on sabbatical.

Teaching bugbear : Blocks to learning that we cannot do anything about. I once investigated a plagiarism case and discovered that the student concerned had to do 30 hours paid work a week. In general, students' basic material circumstances are the main influence on their performance. Student debt and paid employment make it harder than ever to train them to think independently.

How would you solve it? Don't know - a green government?

Teaching tips : Work in a team. I'm not sure I would still be in this business if it were not for my colleagues' support. You tend to learn things from people with whom you may have little in common in terms of academic interest.

Outside interests : Football (playing and watching) keeps me sane.

Career Highpoints : The publication of Diana, A Cultural History after six years of research. I teach students about how literature and other cultural forms such as film are embedded in everyday life. This fed my view of Diana, Princess of Wales, who as an icon was mediated by different cultural forms such as the press.

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