Teaching: on the front line

February 27, 2004

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

Name : Harriet Clarke.

Age : 32.

Job : Lecturer in psychology for social work, Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham.

Salary : Lecturer B scale (up to £34,838) Qualifications: Psychology/sociology BA (Sheffield); PhD (Leicester); currently studying for a postgraduate certificate in learning and teaching in higher education (Birmingham).

Experience : I was a researcher at the Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit, Leicester University, from 1994 until 2001. My work focused on disabled parents' experiences of raising children and social care for older people.

I also taught small groups of medical undergraduates on subjects such as health policy.

Hours spent teaching : About 100 hours direct teaching a year, plus preparation, assessment time, placement tutoring, dissertation tutorials and so on. My teaching is cross-disciplinary. I like moving in and out of territories, but it's hard work.

Hours on red tape : Whatever I take on from meetings or as part of the team.

Admin roles will be rejigged when the social-work degree starts this year.

Hours on research : About 30 per cent of my time. When I began this job, I managed to complete my PhD and co-write a book on parenting and disability.

But the past few weeks have been focused on helping students start placements and on next year's admissions.

Teaching bugbear : Developing myself as a teacher. When I began lecturing, I grabbed every staff-development opportunity. It was useful to meet lecturing staff from different departments. It also built my skills and confidence. Now I find it hard to make the time because I am writing up research.

How do you solve it? I see it as a temporary hitch. The teaching group I work with, including my mentor, has been supportive, so I've been able to talk through my teaching with them.

Worst teaching moments? The beginning, when I was like a scared bunny caught in headlights - over-prepared and underconfident. Now I really like working with groups. Our students generally have social-care experience, but sometimes psychology topics touch raw nerves.

Least funny? Teaching a course titled "Personal understanding of health and illness" breathless and redfaced from running up nine flights of stairs as I couldn't find a parking space and was late.

Teaching tip? If you are teaching a professional qualifying course but are not a practitioner, remember what experience you have - for me it's social care research - and talk to others doing similar teaching.

Outside interests : Walking, camping, swimming and yoga.

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