Teaching: on the front line

March 19, 2004

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

Name : Mike Rowe

Age : 36

Job : Lecturer in policing in the department of criminology, Leicester University.

Salary : Lecturer grade B (up to £33,000)

Qualifications : BA politics; PhD and postgraduate certificate in higher education (Leicester)

Experience : I was a research assistant on inner-city race policy while tutoring at the Open and De Montfort universities. I got an Economic and Social Research Council grant for my PhD while teaching criminology and police issues part time on various masters courses. As I was completing my thesis, Leicester was expanding into distance-learning and I was lucky enough to get a full-time job.

When I started, police officers doing masters degrees were relatively unusual. They were often regarded as a bit "soft" by their colleagues. But that has all changed. Higher education is seen as central to career progression.

Hours spent teaching : About 20 a week - mainly writing materials to send to distance-learning students. We run biannual study schools.

I mostly teach UK police officers but our students come from all over the world. Recently, I've taught students working with the United Nations in Bosnia and others from South Africa. Often they are not from traditional backgrounds and, on the masters, most don't have first degrees but are career professionals. I'm teaching them theories of policing, accountability, legitimacy and the importance of securing consent in the communities they work with. Because they are managing studies alongside professional lives, we have to be flexible. I remember one student couldn't finish a piece of work because he was under fire in a war zone. Overseas students can have very different attitudes to learning - Hong Kong students tend to represent material when we want them to treat it critically and analytically.

Hours on red tape : No clear division in distance learning, but probably 12 hours in general admin.

Hours on research : I've just spent 18 months finishing a book on policing, race and racism.

Teaching bugbear : Distance learning doesn't conform to term-time patterns so our teaching year is 52 weeks long. This makes it difficult to factor in research.

How would you solve it? I ruthlessly carve out time and stay out of office one day a week.

Funniest teaching moment : My first Open University residential school. A relatively elderly woman sitting at the front row said out loud: "You look like my grandson," and promptly fell asleep.

Teaching tip : If you don't know the answer, admit it.

Outside interests : Reading, music and family.

Policing, Race and Racism is published by Willan Publishing in May.

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