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Preparing postgraduate students as future university teachers: The UWA Teaching Internship Scheme

Allan Goody
Centre for Staff Development
The University of Western Australia

Introduction

I'm much more confident with teaching and not concerned if I have problems because I already have possible solutions. Before I had no idea how to solve problems or how to self reflect.
This is a comment from one of the postgraduate students who participated in the Teaching Internship Scheme at The University of Western Australia (UWA). The scheme started in 2000 and is an initiative of the University that demonstrates the institutional value placed on teaching and student learning. This paper describes the UWA Teaching Internship Scheme through its first year, provides some early feedback from participants and others involved with the scheme and outlines some changes for the scheme in 2001.

The UWA Teaching Internship Scheme

At UWA, postgraduate tutors are offered a half-day workshop Seminars and Tutorials for Post-Graduate Tutors that introduces them to teaching in a small group settings. The UWA Teaching Internship Scheme, an initiative of the University's Teaching and Learning Committee, moves beyond that half-day workshop to provide a more comprehensive development program for future university teachers. The Teaching Internship Scheme is limited in size and is highly competitive.

The internship provides promising doctoral research students with an opportunity to develop teaching skills in their field and to undertake a program of professional development activities during the course of their doctoral candidature. The aim of the internship is to enhance the future employment prospects of the interns and to assist in attracting and retaining outstanding students at UWA. The internship is for two semesters and is undertaken in the second year of the intern's doctoral studies. The scheme was funded initially for three years with funding for seven interns annually. There was provision for an additional seven interns to be funded jointly with departments that have an internship scheme. The first cohort of nine fully funded interns, plus three partially funded applicants, started in February 2000.

The teaching experience

The interns are required to carry out approximately four contact hours of teaching each week for two semesters. The teaching plan is proposed and agreed upon by the intern, the intern's academic supervisor and the department head. The plan must include small group teaching (eg. seminars, tutorials, laboratories) and lecturing to ensure experience in a range of teaching and learning skills relevant to their discipline.

Professional development

The aims of the professional development component are to: Each intern completes a total of 50 hours of paid study and professional development over the two semesters. The professional development program is designed and coordinated by the Centre for Staff Development. The two main professional development activities are the Foundations of University Teaching and Learning program in the first semester and the development of a small teaching related project in the second semester.

The Foundations of University Teaching and Learning is a 30-hour program comprising a 2.5 day workshop and seven two-hour follow up sessions through the semester. The program is essentially the same as the one offered for new academic staff. The project is to draw upon themes and issues raised within the Foundations program and the interns teaching experience. During the second semester, the interns meet to continue the dialogue about teaching and learning that started during the Foundations program.

The interns are also funded to participate in other professional development activities and courses to meet their individual development needs. (This additional funding has been dropped from the scheme in 2001). Finally, the interns have their registration paid to attend the annual Teaching and Learning Forum and encouraged to present a paper based on their project. To complete the internship the interns develop a teaching portfolio and draw on this to write a short report on their internship experience.

Criteria for selection

The applicants are chosen based on an application package which includes an academic transcript, curriculum vitae, two references, written support from their department and a statement detailing the reasons for applying and suitability for an internship. The selection committee bases their decisions on the applicant's academic merit, suitability for a teaching position and the quality of the host department's proposed teaching plan.

Funding

The total cost for each intern was budgeted at approximately $8600. This comprised $6000 for teaching and $2600 for professional development. The professional development component of the budget comprised $1200 for the interns salary over the 50 hours of professional development, $600 for participation in other development activities including registration at the Teaching and Learning Forum, $500 for Foundations of University Teaching and Learning program, and $300 administration fee to CSD. For the interns under the jointly funded scheme the departments would be allocated $1300. The teaching funds were allocated to the departments for distribution and the professional development funds were allocated to CSD for distribution. For 2001 the funding structure has been changed and the total cost per intern is $7204.

The guidelines, costing and application procedures for the teaching Internship Scheme are available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.acs.uwa.edu.au/reg/sec/tinternship/tinternguide.htm

The first year

There were 33 applicants in the first year of the scheme. The Teaching and Learning Committee awarded eight internships under the centrally funded scheme and one under the jointly funded scheme. The committee also funded another three applicants to participate with the interns in the Foundations of University Teaching and Learning program only. One of the three left the program after the initial Foundations workshop.

The nine interns represented a broad cross section of the university departments: engineering, computer science, anatomy and human biology, psychology, archaeology, history, English, geology and information management. Most of the interns were in the second year of their doctoral program. One was in her final year and resigned her internship at the end of first semester to concentrate on completing her thesis.

The teaching experience

The interns came to the program with limited teaching experience. Most had some tutoring experience while none had lecturing experience. In their internship program they were given a broad mix of teaching experiences. The most common teaching experience was tutoring (at least 4 hours per week) and marking of student assessment with several lectures assigned during the semester. Other teaching activities included laboratories, consultation hours, serving as the coordinator of tutors for a unit, and attendance at lectures (for which they were tutoring). One intern did no teaching in the first semester but was assigned full (supervised) control of a course in the second semester.

The funding allocated to the interns department for teaching was based on the individual teaching plans and therefore varied for each department. The teaching budgets requested ranged from $5100 to $8100 and averaged $6400. In 2001, each department was limited to $5000 per intern.

Professional development

The interns met as a group for 32.5 hours of professional development during the first semester. The majority of this time was spent in the Foundations of University Teaching and Learning program. The first part of the program involved a two-day workshop that covered topics including student learning and the implications for teaching, small group teaching and lecturing. Activities included the initial development of a personal philosophy of teaching, micro-teaching and discussions with students and experienced lecturers. The workshop models teaching strategies and is very learner centred with experiential and cooperative learning as the guiding philosophy.

During the semester the interns continued with the Foundations program through nine two-hour follow up sessions. The first three of these sessions covered assessment of student learning, evaluation of teaching and peer observation of teaching. The remaining six sessions were on topics chosen by the interns and facilitated by them. Topics included learning styles, web based teaching, leading discussions, cultural awareness, interdisciplinary teaching, student learning teams, lesson planning and developing a syllabus. An additional session was held on preparing a teaching portfolio. (The Foundations program was changed to a two-day workshop with nine follow ups from the normal 2.5 days and 7 follow ups for scheduling reasons).

The follow up sessions were also used as a forum for dialogue about teaching and learning issues that were raised in the intern's individual teaching experiences. Interns presented problems they faced or strategies they were planning to try in their classes and sought feedback from their colleagues. This dialogue continued in second semester with fortnightly meetings to complete the 50 hours of development. They also worked on their project related to their teaching and learning and sort feedback from the group on their projects.

The interns are also be able to participate in other funded development programs related to teaching identified by the interns to suit their individual developmental requirements.

Feedback on the scheme

The feedback to date is based on individual interviews at the end of first semester and anecdotal comments made through the course of the internship. Interns have yet to submit the reflective statement on their experience and each will also provide some verbal comments to the internship coordinator. The feedback to date has been positive. All interns reported that their participation in the Teaching Internship Scheme had met their expectations; for most it has far exceeded their expectations. Several of the interns reported that the most important outcome of being a teaching intern was the increase in confidence as a teacher and being able to get some teaching experience.

The biggest downside of participating in the internship appeared to be the time conflict with the interns own study and research programs. Many of the interns reported spending an excessive amount of time on lecture preparation.

Other comments reported include:

The Teaching Internship Scheme in 2001

The feedback from the participants has been taken into account in drafting the guidelines for the scheme in 2001. Changes made include:

Conclusion

The feedback reported here is only preliminary and most was provided after one semester of teaching and after the major portion of the development activities. Further feedback will become available when the interns submit their final report. A longer term view of the success of the Teaching Internship Scheme will be evident when the interns graduate and move into academic positions. Hopefully these new academics will have a much smoother transition to academic life, being well prepared to teach and being a step ahead of other new academics who have not had a similar experience.

Author: Allan Goody
Centre for Staff Development
University of Western Australia
Crawley, WA 6009
Phone: +61 8 9380 2603 Fax: +61 8 9380 1156
Email: agoody@csd.uwa.edu.au

Please cite as: Goody, A. (2001). Preparing postgraduate students as future university teachers: The UWA Teaching Internship Scheme. In A. Herrmann and M. M. Kulski (Eds), Expanding Horizons in Teaching and Learning. Proceedings of the 10th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 7-9 February 2001. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2001/goody.html


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