Being involved in research on employability of doctoral candidates I am interested in how they view the skills, knowledge and dispositions that they need to develop to have a successful career. Teaching has been an object of discussion with many doctoral candidates that I have interviewed. The majority of them view teaching as an essential skill required to develop a successful academic career.
However, not everyone has an opportunity to undertake teaching duties during the PhD. Unfortunately I did not have opportunities to teach during my PhD. I would love that!!! I like interacting with students and learning something new from them every day. Also teaching is such a great way of transferring knowledge and engaging the audience in the results of your research study. But apart from the fact that the teaching duties should be available to PhD researchers, there is a whole load of other questions and issues that need to be considered here.
Recent statement by Eurodoc highlights a number of these problems such as time availability, for example. My friends doing PhD in Russian universities, for example, have to do up to 20-25 hours of teaching per week. Where on earth will you find time to do your PhD then? It is the case with some European higher education institutions as well where teaching workload is not officially regulated. There is also little information on remuneration of doctoral candidates for teaching duties. In some institutions scholarship holders are expected to contribute 6-7 hours of teaching per week which includes preparation for classes, marking etc. Anything above that should be officially paid for. However, many PhD researchers report that their workload is much higher and is not financially acknowledged.
Another problem of course is the lack of skills and knowledge in how to teach. Those who teach know that it is not enough just to be an expert in your subject, you have to understand how people learn, what teaching methods are available etc. How many of us have actually been given proper teaching training before we started teaching? Having taught at the university myself, I know that a lot of it is about being thrown into the abyss and trying to survive 🙂 Providing proper teaching training for PhDs is not just about them being successful at this, it’s firstly about the quality of learning of poor undergrads who have to suffer because of lack of appropriate training for us.
What are your experiences of teaching? Have you tought during your PhD? What were the main challenges? Advantages? What advice can you give to doctoral candidates who just start teaching?
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Interesting reading: Graduate student teachers should demand professional status