Thursday, 20 September 2012

Thoughts on the PGWT September Residential

I went to the Postgraduates Who Teach (PGWT) Residential course this week up in York. It was organised by the Researcher Development Team who put together a two-day programme of talks and workshops to introduce us (‘us’ referring to a consignment of postgraduates who are planning on teaching at the university this academic year) to a variety of approaches, theories and ideas we might be able to utilise when we start taking undergraduate seminars this year.

For me, undertaking the course was a prerequisite for being accepted into the ranks of teaching staff in the sociology department. It also seemed a good idea as I’ve no relevant teaching experience.

I suppose I thought the whole thing would be a good jolly. Sure - I hoped I might pick up a couple of ideas, but I was working on the assumption that it was essentially there so that the university could fulfill its requirement that PGWTs undertake nominal training.

Contrary to this supposition, the residential was tough work. I find myself pretty drained as I type, sat on a train stood waiting for its turn to depart from Manchester Piccadilly.

It was far from a box-ticking exercise. It actually gave me quite a bit to chew over. Not least because the people doing the talking up front were all incredible presenters who, by the nature of being so fantastic, were not intimidating at all but thoroughly approachable personalities.

I’m going to note down a couple of the many ideas offered up in the sessions that really resounded with me.

The ambiguity of the learning environment. Oftentimes, students will throw a curveball. You might’ve organized a seminar structure, but a question proffered by somebody sat in the class could actually really divert from this. As the person heading up the discussion, you have to decide whether to run with that question there and then, or perhaps deal with it in another session. 

Feedback comes in many different guises. It’s not just that illegible scrawl at the bottom of the pro forma marking criteria stapled haphazardly to the front of student essays. Encouragement, suggestions, and critical commentary – these are all things that teachers can actively provide to their students in a seminar setting, not just at assessment time. Feedback can really affect a student’s progress in the sense that, given the right guidance, it can push (pull?) them toward their end goal.
o   Recognise what a student wants to achieve
o   Let them know how far away they are from that goal
o   Give practical suggestions on how to close that gap.

I move up to York in just over a week’s time. Having spent a couple of days really thinking in depth about the teaching skills I want to develop during the next three years, and having met some of the people at this residential who’ll be in my department, I’m feeling much more geared up to getting started with things.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

largely hokum

i'm starting out as a phd student in the sociology department at York this October, and i'm intending to use this space to put down my own thoughts as and when I have them.

the name of the blog is inspired by none other than sheldon cooper of 'big bang theory' fame.

that so many people think sociology is a none-subject doesn't get to me. it's the best tool i've come across to bring some cogency to this world we live in.