ECH Teaching after your PhD / as a Research Fellow or Assistant

1 October 2014

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. In this situation the same sorts of considerations apply as already indicated for the PhD student; in particular, it remains important to ensure that your research is not allowed to come to a standstill even if you need to undertake significant amounts of teaching. There may now be additional opportunities to take sole responsibility for a whole module to cover research leave, however; having a doctorate opens up new opportunities which provide the chance to broaden a CV in the ways recommended below for research fellows and assistants.

If you are lucky enough to be awarded a research fellowship or obtain a position on a funded research project, do not allow your teaching CV to gather dust. Funding bodies and institutions will have their own rules about the amount of teaching they regard as compatible with the position they have funded, or about the responsibilities of host institutions to offer you opportunities to teach as part of your career development. Assuming that you have acquired some experience by this stage, it makes sense to seek out opportunities to broaden and deepen your portfolio at this point. Ways to do this might include:

  • Contributing to core courses/modules on themes such as historiography/skills where you may have complete control of the content of your session.
  • Seeking opportunities for experience of MA level teaching and undergraduate lecturing if you have not done it before.
  • Contributing to postgraduate research training.
  • Designing and delivering your own module (though bear in mind that departments may be wary of investing in the start-up costs for a module that will only endure as long as your association with the institution – the best that may be available may be taking sole responsibility for an existing module).
  • Acquire further teaching qualifications.
  • Also be aware of any elements in a research post that provide evidence of teaching ability- this can especially be the case with impact-related activity.

More generally, it is important for a research fellow not to get a reputation for being overly protective of their research time or unwilling to contemplate anything not immediately related to their research – a willingness to contribute to the wider life of the department will be something those making permanent appointments will be looking for in your CV at the next stage.

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