Infant Music Class, Archives & Special Collections, Roehampton University, Froebel Archive for Childhood Studies

Arthur Burns writes:

Arthur BurnsOver the past twenty years teaching has often appeared to be the poor relation of research in the context of the academic career. An essential part of the profession, yes; but one not calculated to deliver significant career advancement. Moreover,  in the form of the ‘teaching-only’ contract to which those deemed ineligible for Research Assessment Exercises could be consigned, or an early career historian appointed to a temporary position which terminated at that point of the year at which sustained research activity became possible, its inferior status seemed confirmed. Universities and the education press spoke of and highlighted ‘research stars’ on lucrative contracts which freed them from the burdens of the classroom. But times have changed. It remains more difficult to identify a ‘teaching’ than a ‘research star’, and it undoubtedly remains the case that the high-flying academic career and professional reputation of a historian will depend substantially on his or her research record. READ MORE

Teaching Experience

A permanent post in a history department (and also many temporary ones) will almost certainly want to see evidence of teaching experience on a candidate’s CV, and quite possibly some formal qualification. One of the key skills of the academic historian’s life is achieving a good balance between teaching and research, and it has to begin at the outset of your career. READ MORE

Teaching while a PhD Candidate

A PhD candidate ought to undertake some teaching. Such experience not only provides a welcome diversion from research (on which it also offers new perspectives) and offers its own intellectual rewards, but can be a useful (though too often paltry) source of income. Teaching also gives early indications of your aptitude for this aspect of the profession, and whether you enjoy it – and not everyone does. READ MORE

Teaching after the PhD /as a Research Fellow or Assistant

For the unemployed PhD, teaching can of course be one means of keeping body and soul together. Many institutions will not recruit all the teaching assistants they need from within their own student body, and opportunities are readily available particularly in places like London, where there is a concentration of History departments in a small geographical area. Opportunities can arise quite suddenly and at a late stage of a year for a whole variety of reasons, so even a speculative enquiry accompanied by a CV may sometimes yield results – more importantly, look for opportunities advertised on departmental websites. READ MORE

Terms of Employment

In 2014 a flurry of articles and correspondence highlighted the issues around the employment of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in British higher education generally. Discussion is likely to be ongoing as universities enter a period of significant financial pressures for retrenchment at the same time as many experience growing student numbers (not least in history) and are being encouraged to improve student experience through increasing contact hours while preserving quality. READ MORE

Issues for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)

Any one taking on a GTA position needs to ensure that they have established a clear understanding of the terms and conditions associated with employment at a particular institution. In many universities, such conditions are the subject of ongoing discussion at both department and institutional level, and it may well be worth seeking out ‘shop-floor’ views from those already engaged as GTAs before committing yourself, especially if you are seeking a position outside your ‘home’ department. READ MORE

Issues for Postdoctoral teachers

Whether postdoctoral teachers are engaged in teaching as part of a research post or employed on a temporary contract to augment or cover some aspect of a department’s teaching, it is important that they establish clearly the context for their work in this respect. READ MORE

Teaching Qualifications

A feature of university life in recent years has been an increasing  focus on the quality of teaching undergraduates receive, especially in the light of the new fees regime. This has raised a concern about the historic failure of the higher education profession to develop professional teaching qualifications of the kind standard for schoolteachers for some time now.  READ MORE

Teaching History

As a subject history is very well taught at universities – the subject is consistently among those which achieve high scores in the National Student Survey, notably for the enthusiasm and engagement of the teachers delivering courses.  But it is also a very demanding subject to teach in terms of the preparation required of both staff and students to ensure that a class is a success, and in the type of feedback required to enable students from very diverse backgrounds to improve and succeed in their studies. READ MORE

Some other resources

Other relevant resources can be accessed on the Historians on Teaching website, developed by Alan Booth, who has a long-standing interest in this area, and both the Historical Association (including its journal, Teaching History) and the personal websites of historians teaching in schools can offer stimulating food for thought despite a prime focus on history in the schools. In terms of thinking about what represents good practice in module design, the recently revised QAA benchmark statement for History is a good place to start.

With reference to terms and conditions of employment for temporary teaching staff see the RHS/History Lab Plus Code of Good Practice.

Printable version: ECH – Teaching