Supervising students in the lab is an important part of the work of postdocs, and, along with some teaching (demonstrations, tutorials, lectures...) and mentoring, provides an opportunity to inspire the next generation of researchers.
Teaching and supervision experience are essential to apply for lectureships but not only; they also contribute to developing the communication and the people management skills required in many employment sectors.
Getting involved with teaching and supervision
The best way to learn how to teach or supervise is by getting involved!
To be as beneficial as possible, "learning by doing" should be appropriately mentored by experienced academics, and postdocs should seek feedback on their performance, both from students and from mentors (and/or other colleagues).
How about attending a lecture by one of your fellow postdocs before getting involved yourself? How about inviting a fellow postdoc to attend a session you are delivering?
Postdocs can volunteer to get involved in classroom teaching to gain some experience. They are responsible for proactively seeking opportunities by talking to their PIs, PIs in areas in which they would be interested to teach, or relevant module co-ordinators. Additionally, the Centre for Biomedical Sciences Education offers some demonstration opportunities.
The PDC has developped guidelines to clarify how postdocs can get involved in teaching, the amount of teaching considered reasonable for a postdoc to undertake, as well as providing advice to postdocs, PIs and module co-ordinators.
Most postdocs get involved in supervising students (undergraduate, postgraduate or work experience) alongside their PI (or other academic if relevant). This often happens at the request of the PI; postdocs willing to supervise but who don't have the opportunity within their group should talk to their PI, who can help them identify potential opportunities.
Depending on their experience, postdocs may be involved in the technical training, guiding and mentoring of students but also contribute ideas, feedback and sometimes even help design student projects.
Postdocs who are significantly involved in the supervision of PhD students, and meet the eligibility criteria, can be appointed as their Assistant Supervisors.
Developing teaching and supervision skills
In addition to mentorship and feedback, your teaching and supervisory skills can be developped by attending workshops and training events provided by the Centre for Educational Development (CED) and Organisational Development.
You can collect feedback any way you like, but if you need inspiration, you can find examples of template feedback forms here.
Updating your knowledge
Seminars and conferences
The CED organises events, seminars, and an annual Learning and Teaching Conference, to showcase the latest innovation and trends in higher education teaching.
They are worth attending to keep up to date withe recent development and get ideas to "shake-up" the way you teach.
Learning and Teaching Hub
Co-ordinated by the CED, the L&T Hub regroups case studies to recognise, celebrate and showcase the great work that Queen's staff do on a continual basis to develop their own practice and to enhance the learner experience. This can give you novel ideas to implement in your own teaching. You can also submit new teaching methods that you trialed or implemented as case studies for other to learn from!
The CED's newsletter, Reflections, focuses on teaching, learning and assessment at Queen’s and more generally in higher education. It is published once a semester and is a vehicle for members of staff to discuss new approaches to teaching and supporting learning. Reflections also provides news and updates on learning and teaching events and initiatives within Queen’s. You can submit your articles.
The PDC library includes books on mentoring and emotional intelligence, which could help you interact with students.
Validating your experience
The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is part of Advance Higher Education (Advance HE) and proposes professional recognition schemes in teaching, in the form of accreditations called HEA Fellowships.
Different types of HEA fellowships exist; in general, the one corresponding to postdocs is the Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).
Being awarded any HEA Fellowship significantly improves your CV for lectureship positions and, if you are involved in teaching and aims at working in academia, we strongly encourage you to apply.
You can receive HEA accreditation via the Queen's Merit Award, for free. This involves submitting a written application and is supported by a series of courses.
This programme is organised by the CED and all the information, as well as procedure to register and contact are provided on the QMA page (button below).