Navigating Academic Careers
Managing as teacher
This quote from Barbara illustrates how she sees both teaching and research as opportunities for scholarship. Likewise, this quote from AAA demonstrates his belief that an academic should be capable of both research and teaching:
I really love teaching and I always gave my all when I taught and I put [in] a lot of extra hours in terms of prep …If I keep teaching, I keep learning and if I keep doing research then I can keep learning and contributing to knowledge (Barbara).
I mean someone with a PhD shouldn’t just be smart, they should also be able to disseminate their knowledge…I think that not enough effort is put on teaching and that is probably one of the reasons why scientists [are] so bad at telling the public what they are talking about (AAA).
In most institutions teaching remains central to the academic mission. Therefore, career advancement in a traditional academic role often relies on your success as both a researcher and teacher. As represented in formal manifestations, e.g., modules that individuals are assigned to teach. Still, informal teaching, such as that involved in research teams and supervision, plays a role, with its own pleasures and challenges, as Albert notes:
I think training undergrads/grad students/technicians—whoever comes into the lab—that is something I kind of picked up while I was doing my PhD and I really enjoy doing it. Sometimes it is a lot more work than you expect. It is a lot tougher with undergrads because they are only there for a finite time and by the time they are ready to start doing stuff on their own they are a week or two away from just leaving, right, so that is something that I have always enjoyed doing and I want to continue doing.
Naturally, people vary in their motivation to teach and different academic roles offer varying opportunities and responsibilities for teaching. For instance, Cathy (in a teaching-only position) said:
I really enjoy the teaching part. Research I think is really valuable and it’s not that I don’t envision participating in that to a certain extent but I don’t get excited about it in the same way.
In contrast, Jennifer, in a research-only role, described research as her focus with teaching as optional: I can focus on my research and …dip in and out of teaching as I like; I’m not going to be tied down with teaching and marking and all that stuff. In contrast, after appointment to a research-teaching position, Jennifer saw teaching as a necessary part of being an academic and a way to gain credibility within her department. However, she noted that time spent in module design, pastoral care and marking was ‘com[ing] out of writing time.’
Formal teaching can reduce the time available for research. This is highly likely at the start of your career because often you will be teaching a subject for the first time. If you invest time and energy to develop teaching fluency you will build a store of ideas and materials that will make teaching less time-consuming in future years. Many universities provide teaching development workshops, which can help you to understand and manage your new responsibilities. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the institution’s expectations around teaching (e.g., required professional development, number of courses taught per semester) as well as the support provided for teaching, (e.g., kinds of teaching spaces, access to teaching assistants, varieties of online learning environments).
You should be particularly attentive to varying expectations around teaching and learning if you change institutions or move to another country. For instance, when Jennifer took on a research-teaching role in the UK, she was unprepared to undertake the required pastoral work since this was not expected in her home country. When Paul moved to the UK, he learned to adapt his content-heavy lecturing style to a more interactive approach ‘not always hav[ing] to feed in everything, but let the students come and discuss.’
Explore the other themes
Researcher Identity Development (2020).
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