New to teaching - What makes for a successful entry into HE teaching?

I am not going all Judy Blume on you by asking what your first time was like…..but this blog focuses on the new to teaching HE experience.

So when you read this blog, you may be reflecting on your own early academic days; or perhaps you are supporting individuals making the jump to academia or you could even be right in the middle of your new to teaching time; either way it would be great if you could join the #HEAchat #LTHEchat on 25th May 2016 20.00 GMT. The twitter chat will be an opportunity to share your thoughts on what new to teaching looks like across the disciplines and how individuals can be best supported to learn the ropes.   

The term new to teaching seems to be a catch all, describing individuals who are entering the role of university teacher and yet the term hides lots of diversity. Diversity in terms of the variety of routes people take to HE teaching, from PhD lecturer, graduate teaching assistant, practice tutor, clinical educator, industry expert, learning technician (this is not an exhaustive list). Diversity may also to exist within and between the disciplines not only because of the route to teaching but indeed the duties taken on during the early stages of teaching careers. Diversity in the context of the institution or indeed the team or department the individual is joining.

Diversity aside there does seem to be some commonalities in experience. Reflective accounts from practitioners-turned-academics highlight that their transition to teaching is complex and at times challenging.

  • Guardian Education shares 3 reflections on business leaders swapping the board room for the classroom  (click here)
  • See also HEA blog from Tom Delahunt (@tjd5900_tom) who talks about the transition from clinical expert to teaching novice (click here)

Some accounts of new to HE teaching describe the “Imposter syndrome” in which individuals have to translate their topic knowledge whilst also making sense of the practicalities of teaching e.g. timetabling and the cultural aspects of a faculty, including a whole new language of pedagogy! But at root of imposter syndrome is the anxiety of being found out; exposed without the “required” teaching skills; blagging it yet still aware that learners smell fear! Not to mention the notion of the learner as a customer squarely in view!

Supporting the transition

So here’s the big question; how can the transition to HE teaching be best supported? Recent research new nurse educators discussed the ways in which these early career educators built resilience (McDermida et al, 2016). The authors point to the importance of a supportive peer network and mentoring opportunities. However other emergent themes refer to the role of personality, individual adaptability and the notion of a growth mindset; in which an individual has a reflective disposition, learns from experience and embraces challenge.

The development of a growth mindset resonates with the work of Jeff Conklin and his views on responses to social complexity and appreciation of wicked issues. Reflecting back I often approached learning sessions and my contribution to learning as a tame issue; give students the knowledge I had (in 2 hours of powerpoint) rather than approaching teaching from the wicked issue stance. Perhaps any new to teaching support needs to include ways to help individuals build the growth mindset. This may include deviating from the plan, consciously learning from this deviation and embracing complexity. 





I hope this blog has got you thinking about this early phase of teaching career. So let’s unpack this further on 25 May 2016 20:00–21:00 GMT during our combined twitter chat with #HEAchat and #LTHEchat and share what makes for a successful entry into HE teaching.

You can read more about how to take part in the chat here but it is very simple; just log on to Twitter on 25th May at 20:00 and look for the hashtags #HEAchat and #LTHEchat to join the discussion. We look forward to hearing about your experiences and sharing ideas.


References and further reading

McDermida, F. Petersa, K., Dalyb,J. and Jackson, D. (2016) Developing resilience: Stories from novice nurse academics Nurse Education Today Volume 38, March 2016, Pages 29–35

You might also like to check out #newtoHEteaching. I started a word association challenge here- why not add your word to the mix? Thank you to people who have already added their thoughts.

Recent post about growth-mind set in academia (click here)

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