Society for Endocrinology - a world-leading authority on hormones


Issue 123 Spring 2017

Endocrinologist > Spring 2017 > Next Generation


Surviving the first year of a lectureship

Matthew Simmonds | Next Generation



Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Within any scientific career there is one constant: change. Moving from a PhD to being a postdoc requires constant evolution, to establish yourself as an independent researcher. Obtaining a position as a lecturer is, for many, a natural next step.

A year ago, I took up the role of Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln. This position involves both teaching and research, in contrast to my previous research-focused positions, which had some teaching on the side. Whilst I was extremely excited to join the University of Lincoln and their expanding diabetes research group, I was slightly daunted to be at a university which was ranked in the UK’s top 10 for both student satisfaction and teaching within four of the six undergraduate courses run by our school.

I am sure everyone, including my boss, would like to hear that my transition into this new role was seamless. However, to be honest, it has (at points) been a steep learning curve, albeit an enjoyable one. Now, a year on, I have come up with 12 top tips on how to survive your first year in a lectureship.

 

1. DON’T PANIC

Any change in position is challenging. At some point you will think (as I did), ‘Will I ever get the hang of this?’ But, take it from me, you will be fine.

2. FIND YOUR LECTURING STYLE

We all lecture differently, so don’t be afraid to try different styles. One thing I learnt is that you WILL make some mistakes, but these will help you improve your technique. Speaking to your mentor, attending teaching courses and obtaining a teaching qualification can also provide you with further support. 

3. ALLOW TIME TO CREATE LECTURES

Initially you will be working out what style to use, balancing text with video and pictures, and determining the optimal number of slides for a lecture. Give yourself plenty of time to do this, as you will need it. Eventually you will refine your style and spend less time creating lectures.

4. GET FEEDBACK FROM YOUR PEERS

'Don't be surprised if the students don't ask many questions in your early lectures ... It takes time for them to get to know you, but it will happen much more quickly than you think'

Whilst scary – there is nothing more nerve-racking than presenting in front of new colleagues – this can provide great insights into your teaching. Initially, I stuck to the lecture podium like glue. Once I was made aware of this, I started to move more, enabling me to further engage with the students. Do, however, be aware of potential trip hazards (although that is a story for another day).

5. MAKE USE OF ELECTRONIC SITES

Sites such as Blackboard and Turnitin can be used to give feedback, submit coursework and communicate with students. Investing time in getting used to them is really worthwhile. (If you get stuck, YouTube has some excellent ‘how to’ videos.)

6. ARRIVE EARLY TO CHECK THE TECHNOLOGY

Technology will occasionally fail, however good your IT department is. Getting to the venue early allows you to ensure everything is working and to get help if necessary. If things can’t be fixed instantly, just explain this to your students. You’ll be surprised how easily you work around this.

7. ESTABLISH LECTURING EXPECTATIONS

Identifying these early on (e.g. by putting lecture slides up in advance and ensuring students sign registers etc.) will enable you to put steps in place to help meet these, such as creating lecture upload deadline reminders.

8. MAKE USE OF YOUR MENTORS

Discuss any concerns with the mentor your university provides. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions (I ask a LOT of these). Establishing a good rapport with your mentor will provide you with a better understanding of your institution.

9. GO TO TEAM MEETINGS AND EXAM BOARDS

It is worth going to all of these early on, even before you have students to discuss at them, as they will increase your understanding of how they work, for future reference.

10. GET SUPPORT IN ACTING AS A TUTOR

Most lecturers will be assigned tutees. Tutees can talk to you about any concerns they may have about their degree and if they encounter any issues that may affect their academic performance. Before undertaking this role, establish what support systems are in place in your university, so you can direct your tutees to the correct place to get help.

11. DON’T WORRY IF POPULARITY TAKES TIME

Don’t be surprised if the students don’t ask many questions in your early lectures, or if you put in third year research projects when you first start and only a few people are interested. It takes time for the students to get to know you, but it will happen much more quickly than you think.

12. KEEP YOUR RESEARCH GOING

If you are moving institutions it can take longer to re-establish your research than you would like. When combined with new teaching demands, it can be tricky. Remember it’s a key part of your position, so just keep going and use any potential ‘downtime’ to finish papers, look for new collaborations and put in applications for funding.


 

After my first year, I can honestly say there is nothing better than seeing students engaging with your lectures, and combining this with the research you love. Whilst I do not claim to know everything about this position yet, I have really enjoyed it. I hope these tips provide an insight for anyone who decides to make a similar move now or in the future.

 

Matthew Simmonds

Senior Lecturer, School of Life Sciences, College of Science, University of Lincoln, Joseph Banks Laboratories




The Endocrinologist

...

Winter 2023

Winter 2023