Registrations on Masters programmes are record breaking this year. Students from home and overseas are progressing their studies straight from graduation or returning from the workforce to redefine career prospects. Many academic staff will be picking up postgraduate taught (PGT) for the first time, perhaps at short notice and potentially teaching a more diverse student cohort than ever before. They are looking for additional steer, recognising these particular students in these specific times need more than disciplinary expertise and great teaching to get the most from their studies. This blog is for the educational developer tasked with supporting those picking up PGT or preparing their PGT teaching at pace.
Postgraduate study presents opportunity for in depth exploration of the subject, defining factors include learner autonomy, high order critical analysis, evaluation and problem solving (QAA, 2020). The student progressing to postgraduate study is potentially in a new town or country, often studying for only one intense year. They are commonly studying whilst managing complex social, work and domestic arrangements (McLeod, Barnes and Huttley, 2018). They need to connect to the curriculum and with their classmates and, potentially, build academic capital from the moment their studies commence. The educational developer must focus on teaching practice as curricula is set, assessment defined and student expectations established. Further, mitigation and contingencies for COVID-19 must be considered.
The Teaching Excellence Academy at the University of Hull have compiled guiding principles, suggested teaching activities and curated relevant resources educational developers and those teaching PGT might adopt and adapt to their specific context. We hope they will help in navigating these competing factors and facilitate a suitably stretching and inclusive PGT experience, an experience that contributes to the building of learning community.
Principles for facilitating PGT
Plan teaching with rigour, academic stretch and inclusion in mind
- Offer academic depth and rigour, as defined by Masters Degree characteristics
- Nurture curiosity and independent thinking
- Foster critical thinking
- Link research and teaching and include research-based teaching
- Deploy flipped/blended learning (and explain how it works)
- Develop learning community and belonging
Activities for stretching and inclusive PGT
- Group work & ice breakers
- Regular breaks and social chat in class time
- Reflection and reflective writing
- Discourse and debate
- Culturally inclusive T&L, using diversified visuals and reading lists
- Design teaching activities in partnership with students
- Make explicit academic expectations: how the course will be taught, assessed, the students’ responsibilities and independent study defined
- Flexible, applied and relevant learning activities, eg ‘Apply x to real-world y/your choice’
- Positive, constructive feedback to class contributions and written work.
Jenny Lawrence, Catherine Lillie, Mike Ewen, Graham Scott & Carole Craven
Teaching Excellence Academy, University of Hull
Relevant SEDA Specials
Scholarly, evidence-based guides available from SEDA webpages.
Ashall, W and Garnham, W (2021) Transitions Into, Through and Out of Higher Education: Supporting Students
Mountford-Zimbars, A and Gordan, C (2018) Diversity and Inclusion
Nutt, D Janes, G and Taylor, P (2016) Student Behaviours and Positive Learning Cultures
Aitkin, G and Loeds, D (2019) Experience of staff new to teaching postgraduate students online: implications for academic staff development. Journal of Perspectives on Applied Academic Practice, Vol 7, Issue 1
Macleod, G Barnes G & Huttly S. R. A. (2019) Teaching at Master’s level: between a rock and a hard place. Teaching in Higher Education, 24:4, 493-509, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1491025
Please note, the ‘7 Step’ resources we link to within the text are used with kind permission of the University of Plymouth