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Early Career Researchers: transforming the challenges of teaching in Higher Education into opportunities

“During this time of unprecedented change there has never been a more important time to think about how early career researchers and academics are supported in their development- such support is available across the University including from the Teaching Excellence Academy. In this blog post, Dr Ali Badiei, a Research Fellow in the Energy and Environment Institute reflects on how some of the challenges of being an early career researcher can be transformed into opportunities. Ali has recently completed the Professional Practice in Teaching and Learning in HE module (which is designed for research staff and students who want to teach) and has achieved Fellowship via the DARTE scheme”. 

Early career researchers: transforming the challenges of teaching in Higher Education into opportunities

Dr Ali Badiei

In this blog post I reflect on my teaching experiences as an early career researcher at the University of Hull. I received an overwhelming amount of support and training from the Teaching Excellency Academy and the following is a short record of my experiences that I’d like to share with other early career researchers.

Time management

Delivering lectures as an early career researcher composed a set of new challenges. Time management, especially at the beginning while preparing for lectures and putting together lecture materials was really challenging as I had the responsibilities of a full-time researcher but also had to make room for lecture preparations. Learning from the teaching experiences of similar early career researchers, I tried to divide my days into meaningful periods and was able to work on totally different types of activities without losing concentration.

One of the key methods I used was a time management technique called ‘pomodoro’ which uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. This technique particularly helped me on lecture mornings when I needed to do a final preparation for the lecture as well as carrying out my research duties. I was able to do different activities in each interval and use the short break to concentrate on the next activity. A study of the related literature gave me a wider perspective in dealing with some of the challenges of early career researchers by understanding that most of my challenges were shared by other early career researchers and by using other people’s experiences in tackling various issues.

Integration of research and teaching

Being an early career researcher who was involved in teaching and learning activities also offered new opportunities to integrate research and teaching more effectively. I was able to include the most up-to-date findings on various renewable and sustainable technologies in my lectures and attract the students’ interest to the most novel and state-of-the-art developments in their field of study. Combining such recent research findings with the principles and basics of the concepts I was delivering enabled students to gain a clearer understanding of the way different equations and formulas could be incorporated into real life and high-tech solutions. Designing my lectures for active student engagement, I tried to discuss the various aspects of designing and implementing renewable and sustainable technologies, from architecture incorporation into design to resource management, business applicability and engineering complexity. This way I was able to attract students from very diverse academic backgrounds into multi-disciplinary discussions and problem-solving activities.

Classroom management

As an early career researcher one area for improvement that I noticed was my classroom management skills. In my first workshop experience as the main session leader, I encountered some of the common problems in keeping students concentrating. Almost all the students got distracted by their mobile phones at least once throughout the workshop but I was able to return their attention to the workshop. The type of distraction that I wasn’t sure how to deal with was that students were using the PCs for other activities (mostly social media) while I was attending to other students. As most scholarly articles suggest asking for help in encountering challenging issues, I asked for advice from a professional panel of teaching experts during the panel discussion session we had as part of the “Professional Practice in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education” module. One of the key pieces of advice I received was to use more facilitators for big rooms and large numbers of students which I will consider for future workshops.

Applying what I’ve learnt

I used all the suggestions and recommendations I received to improve my teaching activities and made myself familiar with the implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for my academic practice. I later used my experiences to design and develop a brand new programme, MSc Advanced Energy Technologies for Buildings and Industries using the relevant QAA Subject Benchmark Statements to write the programme learning outcomes.

I will continue to promote excellent teaching by sharing my practice and by inspiring early career researchers here at the University of Hull.

Dr Ali Badiei   BSc, MSc, PhD, FHEA

Research Fellow in Low Carbon Heating Systems Control

Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies

Energy and Environment Institute

University of Hull

Hull, HU6 7RX, UK

www.hull.ac.uk | A.Badiei@hull.ac.uk | +44 (0) 1482 86 3611

 

Some suggested reading:

McAlpine, L. (2014) Over time, how do post-PhD scientists locate teaching and supervision within their academic practice? Teaching in Higher Education 19:8 pages 835-846  

Morss, K and Murray, R (2005) Teaching at University- a Guide for Postgraduates and Researchers: Sage

Simmons, N. (2011) Caught with their constructs down? Teaching development in the pre-tenure years International Journal for Academic Development 16:3 pages 229-241

Wilkinson, S. (2018) The story of Samantha: the teaching performances and inauthenticities of an early career human geography lecturer, Higher Education Research & Development, 38:2, 398-410,

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