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Developing my teaching as a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant: Lilian Schofield

Dr Lilian Schofield is a Graduate Teaching Assistant on the MSc Development Administration and Planning programme in the UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit and is the 500th UCL Arena Fellow.

10 January 2017

What is your role?

I have been at UCL for just over one year at UCL as a Graduate Teaching Assistant on the MSc Development Administration and Planning programme in the UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit.

My primary role is to acts as a liaison between students and the academic and administrative staff.

I also help facilitate and support learning by teaching as well as facilitating students’ academic activities such as workshops. For example, at the beginning of each academic session I help facilitate the annual ‘development workshop’ where students are introduced to ‘development’ concepts and debates.

I also help facilitate the ‘dissertation workshop’ and ‘Windsor workshop’, The Windsor workshop is an annual event which takes place at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor and involves students simulating development scenarios as a team.

What was your motivation for applying for fellowship?

I first found out about UCL Arena through our Programme Directors. They suggested it would be a good way to build upon previous training and teaching experience gained at other Higher Education Institutions.

My personal motivation was to build my confidence in teaching and to gain institutional backing for my teaching - I knew gaining accreditation would be a good way of confirm my experience and knowledge to date.

What was the most useful aspect?

The amount of confidence I gained.

One of the Arena events I attended explored using theatre techniques in teaching – it showed me how I could confidently stand in front of a room and use my voice to get students engaged.

I’ve also learnt a lot about engaging students through different teaching methods and that it is possible to go beyond PowerPoint and lecturing to make information interesting.

Hearing from staff from across the university who readily shared their own experiences was really helpful and motivating.

How has it changed your teaching?

It has helped me to confidently use new ways to motivate students.

One of the Arena events I attended inspired me to use Moodle more interactively. Before I attended the session, we used ‘Hot Questions’ – an inbuilt Moodle plug-in – to submit anonymous questions. In the session we were shown how to use it and could see each other’s questions as they were answered by the session leader. I thought it was fantastic and it was very helpful to see a demonstration of how easy and accessible it is.

I could see that my students would be able to quickly and simply engage with it and have now used it in my teaching.

It gives all students the opportunity to ask anonymous questions and rate each other's questions before the class begins. It has helped students to feel more confident to ask diverse questions and gives me time to review the questions in advanced to find common themes and prepare answers.

I find it is an inclusive way of teaching as less confident students are encouraged to participate. 

How are you now planning to develop your teaching?

Gaining fellowship has given me the motivation to further explore how I can bring research and teaching together in an engaging way.

As a programme team, we are looking at how we can build a Connected Curriculum and are working with the UCL Digital Education team to review our modules and programmes through their workshop on ABC (Arena Blended Curriculum) design.

In the future I would like to gain Fellowship and go through the process again - so I can keep on hearing from other colleagues about what they do - and to attend the diverse programme of Arena events.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about applying?

UCL Arena has helped me explore topics like inclusive teaching and different teaching methods with other staff.

My advice would be to go for it – the events are very informative and from start to finish the fellowship is full of support from friendly colleagues.

If you go in with an open mind, particularly as an early career teacher, it's a good way to boost confidence and get accreditation for your skills and experience.