Roles of Teacher
Roles and Responsibilities Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Roles and Responsibilities Frances Dow and DES Truman Many universities are privileged to have a large community of active, committed postgraduate students who are willing to undertake part-time teaching duties. Many are also in the fortunate position of being able to draw on other suitably qualified members of their local community, for example, clinicians and practising lawyers and accountants, to undertake part-time teaching roles.
In a time of scarce resources, the contribution which these tutors, demonstrators, and other part-time staff make to the teaching provision of a university is not just valuable : it is vital. Without it, we would not be able to maintain the quality of the teaching which is such a distinctive feature of UK higher education. In any resource scenario, the standard and type of teaching which is offered to undergraduate students would be much diminished if tutors and demonstrators were not involved, for they can often fulfil some roles much more satisfactorily than more senior staff.
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Of course, their principal roles are the ones they share with all other teaching staff. There is, first, the academic role of supporting and enhancing student learning and, second, the pastoral role of enabling students to deal with their own personal and welfare concerns. Both of these are examined more fully in the rest of this chapter. But in addition, postgraduate tutors and demonstrators can have a special ‘bridging’ role to play between the worlds of teaching and research, and they can often be very effective role models for first-degree students.
Many universities in their mission statements have committed themselves to sustaining and developing teaching in a research-led environment, and it can often be postgraduates who, in their daily working lives, do most to bring these two aspects of universities’ work together. This is not because postgraduates are expected to make their research Tutoring and Demonstrating: A Handbook topics the focus of teaching – far from it – but because the commitment and enthusiasm which they bring to teaching is so very often a reflection of their intense interest in furthering knowledge and the understanding of it through research.
They, much more than other staff members who are not so continuously active in research because of heavier teaching or administrative burdens, can give undergraduates an immediate sense of the excitement of discovery and of what it means to be at the cutting-edge of research. Thus, even though they have not been part of the academic world for as long as senior staff, postgraduate tutors and demonstrators are particularly good models for bringing home to others the importance of academic values and aspirations.
In other words, they show very clearly what a university is ‘about’. Not all tutors and demonstrators are postgraduates, however. Many are drawn from the professions and thus provide a different, but equally important, bridge between the worlds of academic knowledge and day-to-day professional practice. In fulfilling these roles, part-time teachers do not and certainly should not – act alone, nor should they imagine that there are no limits or boundaries to their responsibilities.
In the academic and the pastoral roles especially, it is the student, and not the tutor, who has the ultimate responsibility for his or her own learning and personal welfare. In performing their duties, tutors and demonstrators can also expect support and help from the department in which they teach, and the next section in this chapter looks in more detail at the division of responsibilities between part-time staff and other members of their departments and universities.
In the remainder of the chapter there is a short section on the tutor’s and demonstrator’s responsibilities in relation to devising a teaching programme, followed by another on problems 3 Chapter 2 Roles and Responsibilities associated with marking and assessment. Then the pastoral role is looked at briefly, and the chapter concludes by suggesting how part-time staff might begin to reflect on their personal priorities as they embark upon their teaching responsibilities.
When any part-time tutor or demonstrator agrees to take on teaching duties in a department, that department has a responsibility to define the extent of these duties, and also to formalise arrangements concerning pay and hours of work. This is simply good professional practice, and no one should feel hesitant in asking for the following aspects of his or her responsibilities to be clarified in the form of a job description (see figure 1 for an example).
If things are clear from the outset, it will help the parttime teacher orient him or herself in the life of the department and set up a good working relationship with other teaching staff. • All tutors and demonstrators should be given a formal letter of appointment from the head of department or other organisation responsible for the teaching, and this should state the number of contact hours and the rate of pay. This rate may vary depending on the exact nature of the duties, and differs between tutors and demonstrators.
Payment for giving a formal lecture (not normally asked of postgraduate tutors) is set at a higher rate than the standard tutorial rate, and this in turn is higher than the payment for certain types of language teaching for which little preparation is needed. The standard tutorial rate includes an element for preparation and other associated duties, as well as the actual contact hour, while the payment for demonstrators is solely for contact hours, on the grounds that the preparation required for demonstrating is significantly less than that for tutoring. Departments must spell out clearly which, if any, duties are associated with the teaching (practice will vary across an institution), and in particular they should make clear to tutors and demonstrators whether marking or other forms of assessment is included. If there is a requirement for the tutor to be available at set times to students for consultation, this should be taken into consideration in calculating payment. Part-time teaching staff should also be informed of how they will be paid – at the end of each term is usual, but some departments may pay twice termly. •