PhD Life: Teaching Undergraduates and the Supporting Learning Programme teaching qualification


One of the aspects of my PhD that I particularly enjoy is having the opportunity to teach undergraduates. Most PhD students have the chance to teach although it is dependent on your department and supervisors. Some people have to undertake some teaching and/or marking activities as part of their studentship. I have an ESRC studentship so I don’t actually have to teach. However, I have always wanted to gain teaching experience. Prior to teaching you have to attend a 1 day ‘Introduction to Teaching’ workshop run by the University. There is then the opportunity to continue with the training and complete the Supporting Learning Programme (SLP).

As you teach modules within your department, you tend to know the theory. I am fortunate that I teach on Supply Chain and Operations Management modules which compliment my research and vice versa. I find that there are numerous benefits of teaching. Firstly it is very rewarding to educate others- even after an hour you can see the difference! Plus it is really good for improving your own understanding of the theory! I also find that it improves your interpersonal skills and ability to think on your feet. This could be for example when students ask you questions or you may need to adapt the session to improve engagement- it is amazing how some coloured pens and flipchart paper can help to get everyone involved! I have seven years work experience, most recently as a Senior Merchandise Manager at global sourcing company Li & Fung, based in Istanbul so I find this influences my teaching style. I often give examples from my industry experience and I find that the students respond well to this as it makes the theory come to life.

I actually enjoy presenting but it is normal to find it daunting standing in front of a class of students. I think teaching is actually good preparation for presenting at academic conferences both in terms of speaking in front of an audience and answering questions. The students are usually given a case study with questions for the seminar so that we are able to build on the key principles that are introduced during the lectures and develop their analytical skills. I teach first year students through to fourth year. My class sizes vary from around 15 to 30-if there are over 15 students then there are two tutors. Normally one of you takes the lead and you then both help the students if they’re working on an activity. This is an interesting dynamic and you can learn from each other.

I completed the SLP programme in my second year which I think was perfect timing. I had already taught for one year which meant I was up to speed with the course content and could spend more time focussing and analysing the delivery. The SLP programme involves attending workshops, peer observations, reading, student feedback and writing a portfolio of teaching tasks and activities. It really is a learning process and enhances your teaching ability. It is also means that you meet other PhD students from across the University. Once successfully completed you are awarded the status of “Associate fellow” of The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Many institutions find teaching experience advantageous and are making accredited status a requirement when recruiting for lecturing posts.

Overall, I have found teaching a positive experience. It is also a nice change during my working week and this helps me focus more on my research. I would certainly recommend both teaching and the SLP!

Good luck!