Academic Development Through Teaching: A Study Into the Experiences of Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Researchers

McGugan, Stuart Alexander (2013). Academic Development Through Teaching: A Study Into the Experiences of Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Researchers. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f11d

Abstract

This study aims to develop an understanding of the learning about academic practice that postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers develop through teaching experiences. Three key questions are asked: What is the nature of the teaching roles that postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers undertake? What kinds of processes help postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers engage with teaching roles? What kinds of learning do teaching opportunities provide postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers?

To address these questions a research design using an interpretive approach with 14 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers at a UK university was undertaken. This involved a visual method of data collection that captured teaching experiences through photo-elicitation.

The study found that the teaching roles that were undertaken varied significantly in their complexity, and that these roles were primarily accessed through ad-hoc and informal means. The study also found five key processes that helped engagement with teaching roles. These processes were identified as informal conversations with colleagues; feedback on teaching performance; observations of other teachers; collaborative working; and training. The outcome of these processes resulted in the development of new understandings about both academic work and emerging professional identities.

The implications of the findings are twofold. Firstly they contribute to an improved theoretical understanding about the relationship between teaching and academic development for early career researchers, and a new model that conceptualises the nature of this relationship is presented. Secondly, the findings also have implications for professional practice. The study highlighted that the quality of the learning derived from a teaching experience will be greatly enhanced when opportunities for teaching dialogues with more experienced colleagues are present. This provides the rationale for institutions to adopt a peer review of teaching scheme that can offer formative and developmental support for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers who are undertaking a teaching role.

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