Teaching: on the front line

July 9, 2004

What is your experience of teaching?

Name : Andrew James Stewart. Age: 32. Job: Lecturer in psychology, Manchester University. Salary: about £30,000. Qualifications: BSc (first class) and a PhD in psychology from Glasgow University.

Experience : I've just returned to academia after four years in industry, where I was involved in understanding how consumers process information in print advertisements and how they react to new products released under existing brand names. I'm building on this experience to establish a two-pronged research programme at Manchester investigating applied aspects of cognitive psychology alongside more blue-skies research on reading and visual processing.

Hours spent teaching : As this is my first year at Manchester, I have a reduced teaching load. Next year, however, I'll be teaching second-year statistics and a module on consumer psychology. Alongside my project supervision and tutorials, I imagine I'll be teaching for 16 hours a week.

Hours on red tape : Probably a couple of hours a week. I really hate red tape so simply get it out of the way as quickly as I can!

Hours on research : About half my week is left for research. I include in this supervision of project students as good students can produce data that form the basis of grant applications.

Teaching bugbear : I'm amazed at how resistant students are to trying to understand statistics.

How would you solve it? Giving students real-world examples seems to be the way to go. Raw numbers don't mean much to anyone, but if you translate those numbers into things such as "the relationship between the number of pints drunk and perceived ability to dance", it starts to make more sense.

Worst teaching moment? There's nothing worse than getting project students mixed up and trying to continue a conversation with one of them that you started with another the day before.

Best teaching moment? When my masters class in applied psychology presented me with a cake that one of them had baked plus a "thank you" card at the end of the course. Mind you, I was due to mark their essays that week, so that might have had something to do with it.

Teaching tip? My advice would be to always make sure you know how to turn on the computer and projector in whatever lecture theatre you're due to speak in. There's nothing worse than standing in front of a class of students randomly pressing buttons and saying, "I'm sure it's one of these."

Outside interests : Burt Bacharach and easy listening music. Last year I flew to Las Vegas to see Tony Bennett. But I think I'd rather keep that a secret...

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