Teaching: on the front line

January 2, 2004

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

Name : Catriona Scott

Age : 40

Job : Director of taught programmes at Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon.

Qualifications : BA dramatic studies (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama); PGCE; registered for PhD.

Experience : After graduating, my jobs ranged from touring and leading educational workshops to acting and working unpaid in experimental performance projects. I also taught in Spain. My higher education career began at what is now the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. I combined teaching with exploration and presentations of performance work at Chapter Arts Centre and elsewhere. I then moved to Middlesex University, where I became curriculum leader for performing arts. In 2000, I came to Dartington, an institution I'd had my eye on for a while - I was familiar with its challenging and contemporary courses.

Hours spent teaching : About a third of my time.

Hours on red tape : A lot, but it is vital to the quality and effective delivery of our programmes. What is difficult in a relatively small institution is that we have to meet the same requirements as a large university but with a small number of people to share the jobs. That's a lot of hard work for everyone.

Hours on research : Not as much as I'd like. Dartington has more than 90 per cent of academic research-active staff. The integrated practitioner/teacher/scholar approach is central to the college's ethos, which is one of the main reasons I chose to work here.

Teaching bugbear : Funded initiatives for recognising and rewarding excellent teaching that take excellent teachers out of the studio/classroom. Who would buy into a model of rewarding excellent research that gave those individuals less time to engage in research?

How would you solve it? Surely it only takes a little more imagination.

Worst teaching moment : It sounds strange, but when the space I'm meant to be teaching in is changed at the last minute. The studio is key to a successful session and I "choreograph" the use of a space quite carefully into my planning. I also like to spend time there before the session, to get a feel for it.

Best teaching moment? A letter from a student thanking me for working her hard. On a more general note, the very best moments are those in which students not only surprise the teacher but also themselves. Best moments also include collaborative teaching with staff from other disciplines, where I invariably come away with examples of good practice and ideas.

Outside interests : My six-year-old son. Aside from attending events and performances, I relax by reading, writing, playing the piano and painting.

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