Support at scale: School-wide support for postgraduates who teach

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Managing tutors and demonstrators on a large scale can be challenging, but also rewarding for both students and the School.  Both the undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes in the School of Geosciences are strongly supported by tutors and demonstrators (T&Ds) and the experience for students can be a rewarding means of developing their organisation, interpersonal and leadership skills.

The Tutoring and Demonstrating support system in the School of Geosciences has evolved over the years as a relatively informal system.  As a result of on going discussion at about contract security, it became clear in the 2015-2016 academic session that improvements were needed. After an external review a new process was introduced and has continued to be developed in 2016-2017 to ensure transparency, fairness and compliance with legislation.

There are approximately 300 tutoring and demonstrating roles to be filled each academic year in the School of Geosciences. The new redesigned process therefore looks to ensure it fully meets the needs of PhD students as well as the course organisers.  The recruitment, payment and administration of tutors and demonstrators were the three main areas of focus throughout the review.

The recruitment process seeks to define the curriculum for the coming academic year, confirming courses to be taught and agreeing the T&D requirements for each course.  During this process the course organisers are asked if there are any current students who have supported the course previously, that they would like put forward to tutor or demonstrate on the course again.  This method allows some of the roles to be filled through a process of allocation and provides consistency and quality in teaching.  The course organisers are encouraged to leave a number of positions open for new students.  This method has proved to help match supply to demand and improve and iron out any administrative inefficiencies.

The previous payment system was a database which relied on work-arounds and required repeated manual input of T&D information.  The system caused discrepancies and delays with payments.  The new system moved to the use of E-Time to record hours worked and payment claimed.  The T&Ds submit a timesheet monthly which is emailed to T&D admin and authorised by the course organiser. The introduction of this process has ensured T&Ds are paid in a timely manner and has allowed management to have more control over the budget.  This part of the process is still being reviewed on the back of feedback from T&Ds that they would prefer to input their hours into E-Time directly.

Previously the administration of the system was an integrated part of a secretary’s role within the School.  The new process has been supported with the recruitment of a dedicated administrator.  This has allowed the process to be communicated effectively to staff and students and allowed a point of contact for any queries or feedback. The webpage is now updated regularly with all information and a FAQs document has been created.

A survey has already been issued requesting feedback on the system and T&Ds have reported that the new system has been helpful.

 The system is more practical for tutors and course organisers’

“More transparent than the last system”

“Recruitment seems to be appropriate.”

“It gets me paid on time.”

“Improved communication”

Tutors noted particularly appreciated: “The better web resources, the better layout of the adverts for demonstrating positions, the fact our views were taken on board about the system”. The system will continue to be reviewed and feedback welcomed from T&Ds, including through their building reps for discussion at the PGR committee.

Next steps:

Find out more about support for tutors and demonstrators in the School of Geosciences on the School website and via the IAD case study.

Dawn Sives

Dawn Sives is the Student Services Secretary and has worked in the School of Geosciences since August 2016 when the new system was introduced.  Dawn is responsible for the management and administration of the new Tutoring and Demonstrating process and also supports the Head of Student Services with other activities.

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