Workshop review: HEA “Postgraduates who teach in GEES”

In March I attended the workshop for postgraduates who teach in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) run by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). My PhD is funded by a teaching bursary which requires me to support 180 hours of teaching each year. However, little formal training is provided by my department and I have learned many of my teaching skills as I have gone along, so the workshop proved to be an informative and affirming experience.

All of the speakers were friendly and approachable, and seemed to genuinely care about teaching and enriching the learning process for students.  I particularly enjoyed the session run by Richard Treves (University of Southampton) on communicating knowledge. This included discussions on how people learn, and different approaches to disseminating information which tied in with Jennifer Hill’s (University of the West of England) session about marking and providing feedback.  I am now more sympathetic to the varying needs of my students and have already tried to incorporate some of these techniques into my teaching. The sessions also confirmed that the feedback I provide is of sufficient detail and I hope to introduce some more innovative ways of giving feedback (e.g. by podcast) to my tutorials in future.

The day concluded with a question and answer session with all of the speakers. This was probably the most informative part of the workshop as it dealt with specific queries and problems. There was a lot to discuss, with people feeding off questions asked by others and we sadly ran out of time. However, some of the speakers went the same pub as the postgrads at the end of the day and were happy to sit with us and answer further questions, and generally chat about their background and how they came to be involved in the HEA. It was reassuring to find out other people have come across similar issues with their teaching to those I have faced, and even more reassuring that there is a body out there specifically to support us in our teaching.

I felt the day was a great success; not only did I enhance my teaching skills, but I also met other postgraduates and academics, some of whom I have kept in touch with. I’d recommend future HEA STEM events to anyone who teaches in the GEES field.

Post written by Emma Shuttleworth

School of Environment and Development

University of Manchester


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