Directors of Teaching  – Successes, Problems and the Way Forward

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The Director of Teaching (DoT) role has been in existence for a number of years and has tended to grow organically within schools. DoTs operating within schools are crucial as we embrace our unambiguous priority in learning and teaching; but what is the situation on the ground?

For some, the DoT role has opened career paths and been significant in terms of promotion:

‘(the role is) varied, worthwhile doing, and I genuinely enjoy it’.

For others, they may feel that their career paths have been damaged or at least been delayed as a result of taking on the role. The DoT may be the only member of the School’s senior management team, who is not a Professor. In some schools, the role is seen to be ‘inflicted’ on a member of staff who has shown reasonable interest in teaching and is generally considered reliable:

“It is generally seen as the worst admin role in the School.”

What can we do about this dichotomy?

There are 3 key (interrelated) points to consider.

The first is recognition of the work involved and is relatively easy to resolve, a good example being the common practice in CSE where, for example, when an academic at UE09 takes on this role, they would be paid at UE10 level for the percentage of their job that is DoT activity. In other areas, automatic PhD funding or research funding allowance is allocated not only to provide an incentive to staff to take on the role, but also to ensure that the post-holders research group won’t suffer and compensate for the lack of time not available for e.g. grant proposal writing. These approaches may not be appropriate in all schools however, and the key point is that the appropriate acknowledgement of the effort is recorded in the work allocation model.

The second relates to defining the role as clearly strategic and not solely day-to-day management and ‘fire fighting’. In smaller schools, an operational and strategic role may work as a hybrid, in larger more complex schools, the growing importance of this role may necessitate a separation of the more operational from the strategic aspects. In Informatics, for example, there is a plan to move to 2 distinct roles:  the DoT (long-term strategic planning) and Deputy DoT (day-to-day operations).

The third, and arguably most important, question is how to empower individuals who usually have no line management responsibility for those they may be trying to lead. This empowerment needs to be delegated from head of school in all matters relating to those defined in the post holders job description. The head of school and DoT must be seen as a single unified axis to implement and lead on learning and teaching.

‘the most important thing is always to find the right people for the job. This includes Heads of Schools who need to be willing to delegate matters / share responsibility, but who also need to be confident that the DoT is the right person for the job and can be trusted to take on the delegated matters in a sensible way.’

Support for DoT career development through leadership training, appropriate mentorship and engagement with relevant learning and teaching staff development also needs to be factored into these roles.  Recognition, strategic leadership, and empowerment  – a simple recipe?

Next steps:

A DoT network group was established in 2016 and has been meeting 3 times per year to discuss topical issues. The network has been deliberately kept open and DoTs encouraged to invite colleagues they think may have an interest in the topics being discussed or who may for example be identified as potential DoTs of the future. The next meeting takes place on 17th May and will include discussion of peer observation of teaching and multimedia assessment and feedback. All welcome – if you’re interested you can book a place here.

Susan Rhind

Susan Rhind is Chair of Veterinary Medical Education and Director of Veterinary Teaching at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, her current areas of research include assessment and feedback, e-learning, the use of models to support veterinary education and student well-being/ support.

Bjoern Franke

Bjoern Franke is the Director of Teaching in the School of Informatics, his research interests focus primarily on software tools for embedded systems, in particular optimising and parallelising compilers, instruction set simulators, design space exploration and performance estimation tools.

Sabine Rolle

Sabine Rolle is a Senior Lecturer in German and Undergraduate Director in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Her major research interest lies in the field of textual criticism and theory of editions, more specifically the manuscript tradition of German medieval texts.

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