Advanced

Ensuring continuity in teaching at a university based on impermanent employment

Bengtsen, Peter LU (2016) Pedagogisk inspirationskonferens för HT-fakulteternas lärare
Abstract
Since I finished my PhD thesis in June 2014, I have lived a stimulating but also somewhat precarious life at Lund University. It is no secret that permanent teaching positions are hard to come by, and during the time I have been teaching as temporary staff on a number of different courses, I have started to consider what the lack of permanent positions means for the pedagogical work carried out at Lund University.

As I see it, two cornerstones in quality teaching are planning and continuity. That is to say, the ability to plan ahead and follow up on experiences from previous teaching in order to continuously improve course content as well as personal teaching skills.

The importance of planning and continuity... (More)
Since I finished my PhD thesis in June 2014, I have lived a stimulating but also somewhat precarious life at Lund University. It is no secret that permanent teaching positions are hard to come by, and during the time I have been teaching as temporary staff on a number of different courses, I have started to consider what the lack of permanent positions means for the pedagogical work carried out at Lund University.

As I see it, two cornerstones in quality teaching are planning and continuity. That is to say, the ability to plan ahead and follow up on experiences from previous teaching in order to continuously improve course content as well as personal teaching skills.

The importance of planning and continuity is of course also pertinent to the work that surrounds the actual teaching. Any substantial revision of course plans, as well as practical preparations (e.g. creating schedules, booking rooms and selecting course literature), generally have to take place at least one semester in advance of giving a course. This means that the person responsible for a certain course given in the fall needs to take time out to make these preparations during the spring of the same year.

The problem is that these (generally constructive) expectations for planning and continuity tend to clash with the lack of continuity in terms of employment. Given that all available positions must be filled in open competition, temporary staff members will often not know for sure half a year in advance if their employment at the university will continue. Furthermore, temporary staff may shift between teaching and research positions, which further complicates things. Situations have occurred, for example, where a person is temporarily employed as a researcher, but is asked to take (unpaid) time out of their research to plan for the following semester a course they have taught previously, without any guarantee that they will actually be teaching it again. From the point of view of the structure put in place to ensure continuity, this practice seems to make sense, as it ostensibly ensures previous experiences with the course are taken into account (though one may wonder how the quality of the pedagogical work is affected if the employee who does the planning does not end up actually teaching the course). For the individual employees who are asked to do the planning work for free, however, it is a dilemma: should they engage in the planning to ensure pedagogical quality and continuity if this at the same time contributes to keeping in place the very system of impermanent employment that creates the dilemma in the first place?

Possible topics for discussion at this roundtable include, but are not limited to:

- Ways that the status as a temporary employee may impede pedagogical performance.

- Ways to overcome the pedagogical and practical challenges in planning and teaching that impermanent employment creates.

- Experiences with expectations from colleagues (teachers, administrative staff, programme administrators, etc.) regarding the involvement of temporary staff in the planning of courses they may not end up teaching, as well as responses from temporary staff to these expectations.

- Ways the university can/does handle the loss of experience that comes with impermanent staff members not having an opportunity to follow up and develop courses they have taught.
(Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
published
subject
keywords
temporary employment, work environment, pedagogics, continuity in teaching, teaching
conference name
Pedagogisk inspirationskonferens för HT-fakulteternas lärare
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1de44421-5ed1-489a-907e-a9f0f3840369
date added to LUP
2016-09-30 23:53:35
date last changed
2016-10-03 08:38:17
@misc{1de44421-5ed1-489a-907e-a9f0f3840369,
  abstract     = {Since I finished my PhD thesis in June 2014, I have lived a stimulating but also somewhat precarious life at Lund University. It is no secret that permanent teaching positions are hard to come by, and during the time I have been teaching as temporary staff on a number of different courses, I have started to consider what the lack of permanent positions means for the pedagogical work carried out at Lund University.<br/><br/>As I see it, two cornerstones in quality teaching are <i>planning </i>and <i>continuity</i>. That is to say, the ability to plan ahead and follow up on experiences from previous teaching in order to continuously improve course content as well as personal teaching skills.<br/><br/>The importance of planning and continuity is of course also pertinent to the work that surrounds the actual teaching. Any substantial revision of course plans, as well as practical preparations (e.g. creating schedules, booking rooms and selecting course literature), generally have to take place at least one semester in advance of giving a course. This means that the person responsible for a certain course given in the fall needs to take time out to make these preparations during the spring of the same year.<br/><br/>The problem is that these (generally constructive) expectations for planning and continuity tend to clash with the lack of continuity in terms of employment. Given that all available positions must be filled in open competition, temporary staff members will often not know for sure half a year in advance if their employment at the university will continue. Furthermore, temporary staff may shift between teaching and research positions, which further complicates things. Situations have occurred, for example, where a person is temporarily employed as a researcher, but is asked to take (unpaid) time out of their research to plan for the following semester a course they have taught previously, without any guarantee that they will actually be teaching it again. From the point of view of the structure put in place to ensure continuity, this practice seems to make sense, as it ostensibly ensures previous experiences with the course are taken into account (though one may wonder how the quality of the pedagogical work is affected if the employee who does the planning does not end up actually teaching the course). For the individual employees who are asked to do the planning work for free, however, it is a dilemma: should they engage in the planning to ensure pedagogical quality and continuity if this at the same time contributes to keeping in place the very system of impermanent employment that creates the dilemma in the first place?<br/><br/>Possible topics for discussion at this roundtable include, but are not limited to:<br/><br/>- Ways that the status as a temporary employee may impede pedagogical performance.<br/><br/>- Ways to overcome the pedagogical and practical challenges in planning and teaching that impermanent employment creates.<br/><br/>- Experiences with expectations from colleagues (teachers, administrative staff, programme administrators, etc.) regarding the involvement of temporary staff in the planning of courses they may not end up teaching, as well as responses from temporary staff to these expectations.<br/><br/>- Ways the university can/does handle the loss of experience that comes with impermanent staff members not having an opportunity to follow up and develop courses they have taught.<br/>},
  author       = {Bengtsen, Peter},
  keyword      = {temporary employment,work environment,pedagogics,continuity in teaching,teaching},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {09},
  title        = {Ensuring continuity in teaching at a university based on impermanent employment},
  year         = {2016},
}