Graduate Teaching Assistants in Higher Education

Last Friday the University of Ulster was host to a UK Centre for Bioscience event focused on graduate teaching assistants and their role in learning and teaching in higher education.

The event was part of a Bioscience Subject funded project and the format was similar to that held previously in Glasgow, Manchester and Aberdeen.  A further event is planned for the University of Reading on 14th March 2011.

Following an introduction by project co-ordinator Anne Tierney (University of Glasgow) it was down to Prof Kevan Gartland, Dean of the School of Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University to set the scene for the day.  Kevan provided an overview of teaching and challenged the delegates present to consider what “brand” of teacher they were or aspired to be by drawing analogies with well known high street shops.

Dr Katherine Clark from the UK Centre for Bioscience described the role of the Centre specifically concentrating on resources on the bioscience centre website such as Imagebank but also highlighting the strong network of colleagues that exists throughout the Bioscience discipline.

Group activities throughout the day addressed issues such as what makes a good teacher, small group and practical work, assessment and feedback and designing a course and assessment.

Delegates from the event came from the University of Ulster  and Queens University Belfast with others travelling from Glasgow to attend.
One of the highlights of the day was to see the level of discussion about teaching related issues by those with a strong remit in the research area.  Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers play vital roles in the teaching of under-graduate and post-graduate students.  In many instances post-graduate students find themselves demonstrating to first year under-graduates in large year one semester one modules.  Their attitudes and approach to teaching can therefore form strong first impressions for new students embarking on tertiary study in a daunting environment.  Their role should therefore not be under-estimated and workshops such as this provide a further opportunity for them to develop an appreciation of the role of the teacher.

It would be great to see events like this  being run on a yearly basis, and some students have already enquired about this; sadly with the demise of the Subject Centres this is now unlikely.

Image source.

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