Teaching FAQs

What should I prioritise in my first 100 days to make good progress on my teaching?

Insight and advice

Prof. Peter Haynes, former Head of Department, Materials, now Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience)

When you start teaching, obviously the College requires staff on probation to have a named academic advisor.  In Materials we give you both a teaching mentor and an academic advisor.  There are some members of staff within the Department who are really good at teaching, and we like to get new academics to get to know them and to discuss teaching with them an early stage.

Find out from your teaching mentor who are the star lecturers and the idea is that you observe them. In fact we encourage you to go and drop in on a number of people.  I’d recommend you do this with three or four: just go and watch them teach. People have different styles, so you have to work out your own way. But go and see these lecturers, and you'll get a whole different view of successful models. Borrow from these, get ideas and that's how you do it.

When you have delivered your first lectures or course, seek some feedback on how they have gone. Ensure you organise observations by colleagues. Collect the evidence as you go along, rather than building it all up at the end of probation.

Collate a portfolio of testimonials on all the things that you've done during probation. Then you've got it: the evidence.  And, therefore you've got confidence as you walk into that room. You can say, “Well, I know what my peers think.  I've written it down and I've got it all in front of me” and you can present it to the panel.


Actions to take and questions to ask 

  • If your head of department has not allocated a teaching mentor or advisor to you, ask for one.
  • Start a file to collate student and official observer feedback right from the start of probation, so that you are not having to collate it all at the end.
  • If appropriate, arrange a meeting with your Head of Education to discuss their expectations, requirements and long-term strategy for the department. Where do they see you contributing and how will that change over time? Please refer to Faculty Education Committees details.
  • Make yourself aware of the key messages in LearningTeachingStrategy [pdf].  Think about how you will incorporate its values and intentions within your own teaching.
  • Ask who are the staff in the department that are exemplary in their teaching practice.
  • Ask exemplary teaching staff whether you can sit in on any of their lectures.
  • Arrange a meeting with your director of teaching to discuss their expectations, requirements and long-term strategy for the department.  Where do they see you contributing and how will that change over time?

How do I find out about and access mandatory training?

Insight and advice

Information on required workshops and other key information on all you need to know to help you get started as a new lecturer is available via the Educational Development Unit’s (EDU) information for new lecturers.

Mandatory courses for most probationary non-clinical lecturers are listed on and booked via the EDU website. Their page also lists other useful workshops that are strongly recommended.


Actions to take and questions to ask 

  • Sign up as soon as possible for the mandatory courses for probationary lecturers as they may only take place once a year. 
  • If you are lab based, find out from the Senior Technicians in your department whether there is any other mandatory training and look at the safety training workshops book on to the ones that are relevant to you and your group.  

What other training is available to me to support and develop my teaching?

Insight and advice

Your first port of call for all you will need to support your teaching is the Educational Development Unit’s information for new lecturers that links you to faculty-specific training, general workshops ,and options such as the PG Cert and the STAR Framework (to work towards an Advance HE fellowship).  

The EDU Teaching Toolkit is full of advice on all aspects of teaching and learning from designing intended learning outcomes, to assessment and feedback.  

There are EDU networking and events throughout the year which provide you with regular opportunities to connect with colleagues to share practice and get advice. 

“I attended a training course on being a module lead that was organised by the Medical Education Office. It had different people from across the faculty and I found it super useful.
- Dr Luke Allsopp, Lecturer, National Heart & Lung Institute

Actions to take and questions to ask 

  • Sign up for the EDU newsletter so that you are among the first to hear about new dates or provision to support you.
  • Sign up as soon as possible for the workshops that will help you to develop your teaching.  Some may only take place once a year.
  • Ask your head of department or departmental director of teaching about any optional training or support for teaching that is offered via your department or faculty rather than centrally. 

How will my teaching load change? How do I know what’s a fair and appropriate teaching load?

Insight and advice

Prof. Anne Dell, former Head of Department, Life Sciences:

Initially, teaching load expectations will be bespoke for you to take in to account: 

  • the department’s teaching needs;
  • your experience when you arrive, e.g. if it is a specialist topic that is your research area, which is clearly in your comfort zone, you will need less preparation time. If it is material you haven’t used since you were an undergrad, then you've got to learn it all again, which takes more time.

By the end of the probation period you should be up to the departmental average teaching load (see Anne Dell’s response to the FAQ: How do I know what is normal in terms of workload and expectations?) and it will ‘ramp up’ over the three years. Take guidance from your mentor/academic advisor on how to ramp up.  Do not forget that you have to be proactive about ramping the teaching up.  In your first year, ask about what you should be doing next year and have an understanding of where you need to be at the end of probation. 

Prof. Edwin Chilvers, former Head of Department, National Heart & Lung Institute: 

I think some people can take on too onerous a teaching load and certainly we try and protect our newly appointed lecturers from taking on too much heavy lifting.  And a number of our people are also clinical practitioners, and have clinics in the NHS, which can be equally onerous. Some will also take on additional private practice, so those together can be a killer. 

Teaching loads vary across the College and it is difficult to be definitive on what is normal.  It’s a very bad job plan for a new lecturer to take on too much teaching. I would be very concerned if somebody was taking more than a day a week in any of the areas of the College.

Prof. Neil Alford, Associate Provost (Academic Planning):

In all departments there will be an anonymised histogram of teaching hours against people, and you can see where you are on that. That’s very helpful and you should expect to be at the lighter end of the scale as a newly appointed lecturer. 


Actions to take and questions to ask

  • Check expectations for the whole department in terms of average teaching loads so that you know what you are aiming for by the end of your probation and beyond and can plan how to ramp things up. 
  • Try to ensure you get good notice of taking on new or more teaching. You need at least one term’s notice if you are going to do a good job.
  • Design assessment to manage workload for yourself and also for students.
  • Think about whether you can adapt your approach to teaching.
  • Share your teaching preparation process with a peer or a member of the EDU team – get their feedback on whether you can use different or more efficient approaches.
  • Ask the following questions:
    • Can I see the profile guidelines for teaching loads in our department?
    • How will my teaching load change over the course of my probation?
    • What factors have been (or can be) taken into consideration when working out my teaching responsibilities?
    • What are the ways in which I should ramp up my teaching to average departmental loads by the end of my probation?  What are the opportunities?
    • What will my teaching load look like next year? 

What if I’m unhappy with my teaching load?

Insight and advice

Prof. Neil Alford, Associate Provost (Academic Planning):

If you do feel your teaching load is unfair, then raise this with your head of department or academic mentor.  It’s your head of department’s responsibility not to let you drown in work. Lectures can take a huge amount of time to prepare and the department has to give you enough space for the preparation to take place – especially if it is a new course, but also when taking over from someone else.


Actions to take and questions to ask

  • Check whether you have an abnormally high teaching load compared to colleagues in your department.  You can ask to see the department’s profile guidelines that shows the distribution of teaching hours across the department.  

Who can help me with specific learning and teaching questions or challenges that I am facing?

Insight and advice

Other than speaking to your academic mentor, head of department or departmental teaching director, there are several other sources of support. 

Your faculty has teams to support you with aspects of learning and teaching.  Contact them to get the support you need.   

There are plenty of people in your department who have discipline-based expertise and experience of designing and delivering effective teaching.  Teaching Fellows would be a good start. Contact the central EDU directly for one-to-one support and advice on learning and teaching if you require help from beyond your department.  We also run a variety of workshops throughout the year. 
- Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development

Actions to take and questions to ask

Find out about all the teams and services that support learning and teaching at the College and in your faculty.  For example: 

Introduce yourself to the Head of Education in your department and discuss their expectations, ways of working and level of support they can provide you. Please refere to College Faculty Education Committees for more information.

What can I be doing to better develop my teaching?

Insight and advice

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development:

Peer observation is really important.  Some departments have a good culture on peer observation – they do it regularly in their departments.  There is a risk that observations can feel a bit judgmental but actually it is a vehicle for useful, developmental conversations.  

Prof. Neil Alford, Associate Provost (Academic Planning): 

There are two aspects: 

  1. The first thing is that you are confident with the material - that's absolutely critical – lots of preparation will help you with that.  The students appreciate a lecturer that is well prepared and gives good notes – they will forgive anything if you are organised! 
  2. The other aspect is you must be able to get in front of people and give lectures, and many people are very nervous about their first lecture.  You must get over this.  Get help and training on nerves and confidence etc. Much of your effectiveness is how you come over to the students and the rest – which is in your control -  is down to your preparation.

A critical thing is to have empathy with the students: think about the audience.  Learn simple techniques such as just stopping every 20 minutes or so and ask if they have questions.  Check in on whether you’re going to fast or too slow.  Make it a two-way conversation.  That takes some confidence, to be willing to ask them how you are doing in the moment. 


Actions to take and questions to ask

  • Start to create your own network of supportive peers and start observing one another’s teaching.  It is a great way to benchmark: the spirit is about feedback and sharing, not competing.  There should be reciprocal gain.
  • Think about reading about pedagogy and how you might want to teach active learning.
  • Think about how you design feedback and assessment - this is a key area for student satisfaction.
  • Think about engaging with the STAR Framework to get an Advance HE Fellowship.  The reflective practice will help you develop your teaching.
  • Seek training on presentation skills and confidence if you suffer from nerves.
  • Ask who in your department would be willing to reciprocate with you on informal peer observations.
  • Ask other newly appointed lecturers (who have already undertaken a year’s teaching) how long it took to produce each hour’s worth of teaching material, and what has helped them to save time.  Make sure you factor in enough time to prepare – it will take longer than you think to start with but will get quicker. 

Who can I engage with informally to share practice and develop my teaching?

Insight and advice

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development: 

The ‘Talking Teaching’ seminar series helps to keep you up to speed and inspired: both peers and professional services staff will be talking about what they have done in their learning and teaching practice. They can help to inspire you, make you feel part of a network, benchmark yourself and share practice.

There are EDU networking and events throughout the year provide you with regular opportunities to connect with colleagues to share practice and get advice. 


Actions to take and questions to ask 

Why is my lecture preparation taking a lot longer than I expected?

Insight and advice

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development: 

If preparing for teaching makes you feel anxious, think about your preconceptions:  you might think it’s all about the teacher and the content as that’s how you might have been taught. But these days it’s not about an expert transmitting content to learners. It’s much more about facilitating learning and helping learners to make sense of content, not just delivering it.  That brings its own challenges, so you need to learn techniques and take risks, to give control over to the students.  But this buys you time and makes learning and teaching more collaborative even though they expect you to be the expert.  The main activity shouldn’t be just listening and taking notes.  Flip it around and think about asking questions rather than telling.  Talk to the students in advance.  Understand the demographics of your students – Who are they?  What expectations do they bring?  What skills do they already have? Know more about the audience and obsess less about the content. 

To learn new techniques that support the active learning described above you can engage with us (the EDU).  Also find the people in your department that feel like you do and may have strategies for overcoming nerves.  That will often be the teaching fellows. They are passionate about teaching. You can share practice and pick up tips from the ‘educationally interested’


Actions to take and questions to ask

  • Get a list of names of teaching fellows in your department. Find out if you can meet with them to discuss good practice and share ideas.
  • Attend the EDU workshops and events to find smarter ways to deliver collaborative teaching and lessen the expectation that you are simply delivering content to the students.   

How can I ensure that my teaching is inclusive?

Insight and advice

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development: 

For the basics of making your teaching more inclusive, there is an online toolkit to help you to: 

  • know what inclusive learning and teaching is and why it is important 
  • learn about inclusive educational design 
  • prepare students for learning 
  • manage inclusive learning environments 
  • make assessment and feedback inclusive 

Actions to take and questions to ask 

Before you start planning your teaching, take a look at the inclusive learning and teaching toolkit, so that you get off to a good start with. 

How do I make best use of learning technologies?

Insight and advice

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development: 

Get familiar with the College’s learning technologists.  They can help you with using the appropriate technology.  Make an appointment with them and start to create a productive partnership with them to learn how to use technology effectively in your teaching. 

The digital learning teams are devolved and you can connect to your faculty teams and their bespoke advice via the Digital Learning website.  


Actions to take and questions to ask 

  • Familiarise yourself with the Digital Learning Strategy
  • Arrange a conversation with your digital learning team to share your teaching plans and see if they have any suggestions for how you can better use the technologies on offer. 

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