On the 15th September around 40 postgraduates and early career researchers attended the New to Teaching event at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at Senate House London; which was co-sponsored by the IHR, History UK and the Royal Historical Society. The purpose of the day was to allow those new to teaching history in higher education, the opportunity to gain advice on different pedagogies from established academics from institutions across the UK. It also provided an opportunity for the attendees to meet peers who were also new to teaching, and share experiences, hopes and fears about the path ahead. A number of attendees (including ourselves) were granted travel bursaries sponsored by History UK, making event attendance possible to those from outside of London.
For the first session of the day, Dr Marcus Collins, from Loughborough University spoke about curriculum design, quality assurance and the student experience. Marcus asked small groups to design their own curriculum for an undergraduate history degree, encouraging us to think about how we would strike a balance between what modules students may want, with those that are less desirable but nonetheless essential to their understanding of history.
Jamie Wood, from the University of Lincoln, then led a session on small group teaching which provided some great tips on classroom management and ideas for activities. What was especially useful, was that we learned how to manage and teach small groups in a practical way. Jamie demonstrated the key techniques through teaching us. We were shown some activities to elicit discussion and encourage peer-to-peer teaching. Overall, the session on small group teaching has enabled us to plan engaging activities and encourage participation. We have found the tips very easily transferable to the real seminar environment and now feel much more confident in our roles as a seminar instructors.
In his session, Adam Crymble from the University of Hertfordshire, talked to us about the multiple ways that he uses digital history in his teaching. Adam explained one of these in detail; as part of his module Adam gets his students to work collectively to data mine from the Old Bailey online database and create Excel spreadsheets. The purpose of this is to get students familiar with using online resources, and to teach them how to use different software and gain skills that may be useful for their dissertation research and also in their future careers.
Marcus Collins delivered his second session of the day, this time on assessment and feedback. Marcus gave us an assessment that had been marked and asked us as groups to critique the marking. By doing this we could see the types of positive feedback that we could use ourselves, and also how feedback can be too negative and potentially demoralising for a student. The main point that we took away from this session was to try to give an overall positive feel to our feedback. To do this, we should focus on highlighting what students did well and need to continue doing, and highlight one element that was poor, but provide practical feedback on how this could be improved in the future.
Melodee Beals (from Loughborough University) gave a session on peer-to-peer teaching which provided us with great advice on classroom management and how to use digital tools to encourage students to interact with each other. She highlighted the importance of the physical layout of the room, and the difference seating arrangements can make in delivering an effective seminar. We now think about the layout of the class and take time to position the students in a manner to encourage talking and discussion in our own seminars.
For the final session of the day, Dr Catherine Armstrong (also from Loughborough University) ran a session on building an academic career. Catherine began by discussing ways in which PhD students can begin to develop their career, helping us to think about what we can do now to help increase our chances of getting an academic job in the future. Catherine also gave us some really useful advice about writing an academic CV, as well as some ‘golden rules’ for the interview process.
The New to Teaching event really helped us to develop our skills as seminar instructors and offered great advice on facilitating lessons and planning activities, much of which we have already successfully put into practice. We left the event feeling motivated, confident, and looking forward to the academic year ahead.
By Abigail Dorr, Rachel Yemm and Diane Ranyard
Abigail Dorr is in the third year of her PhD in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, working with the Common Fund Accounts of Lincoln Cathedral in the fourteenth century. Her research analyses on how the quantity and type of gifts, both given by and to the cathedral, were affected by the wider economic and social climate. Abi is also the treasurer of the Women in Academia Postgraduate Research Group at the University of Lincoln and has co-founded a regional history network for postgraduates in the East Midlands. She is an Associate Lecturer on a Level 1 survey module – The Medieval World and soon to begin teaching a Level 1 module at Bishop Grosseteste University on church history.
Abi’s Twitter: @Abi_Dorr
East Midlands History Network’s Twitter: @EM_HistoryNet
Rachel Yemm is a third year PhD student in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln. She is working on the impact of local media on public perceptions of immigration in the Midlands from 1960-1990. Rachel works with the Media Archive for Central England (MACE), situated within the University of Lincoln. She is also the President of Women in Academia, a Postgraduate Research Group at the University of Lincoln. Rachel is an Associate Lecturer on the Level 2 module New Directions in History.
Mace Archive Website: http://macearchive.org/
Women in Academia’s Website: http://wiapg.co.uk
Rachel’s Twitter: @rachelyemm
Diane Ranyard is a second year PhD student in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln. She is working on gendered representations of marital behavior within the Divorce Court of England and Wales, between 1909 and 1937. Diane is also the current Treasurer for History Lab at the Institute of Historical Research and has worked as a Student Ambassador on the HEA funded Making Digital History Project for three years. Diane is an Associate Lecturer on the Level 1 module Forging the Modern State, 1750-1979.
History Labs Website: http://www.history.ac.uk/historylab
Making Digital History Website: http://makingdigitalhistory.co.uk/
Diane’s Twitter: @dianeranyard