Teaching and supervision
Supervising students can be an important part of the work of postdocs, especially in lab-based environments, 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. After all, teaching and supervising is not about providing information to individuals and telling them what to do, but helping them think for themselves, build confidence and develop as researchers.
This section includes:
- Classroom teaching
- Validating your experience: HEA Fellowships and Queen's Merit Award
- Continual development resources
You may also be interested in:
Postdocs are not hired to teach but they can volunteer to get involved in some classroom teaching to gain experience.
Teaching is a voluntary activity (except if clearly stated in the job description) and individuals 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, some Schools or Centres may advertise opportunities (e.g. demonstration opportunities in the Centre for Biomedical Sciences Education).
Developing your teaching skills will mainly happen by "learning while doing" and thanks to the tips and mentoring you will receive from experienced academics and feedback from students (ask for it!), but there are some other resources that can help you.
Relevant training and resources:
- Effective use of voice
- Delivering engaging learning sessions remotely (part of the "Learning for all" programme for all staff)
- An Introduction To TurningPoint Web: Student Polling Made Easy!
- Laboratory demonstrating (Canvas training; you need to be involved in teaching and allocated to a module on Queen's system to access)
- Small group teaching (Canvas training; you need to be involved in teaching and allocated to a module on Queen's system to access)
- Canvas training (Canvas is the Virtual Learning Environment used at Queen's)
- Panopto resources (Panopto is the system used at Queen's to capture lectures and provide online recorded teaching)
We advise you to be strategic in the teaching you undertake, preferring variety to quantity so that you diversify your experience over the years.
We have developped guidelines with the MHLS Faculty to clarify a range of questions related to teaching for postdocs such as "how can postdocs get involved in teaching?", "how much teaching is considered reasonable for a postdoc to undertake?", as well as to provide advice to postdocs, PIs and module co-ordinators.
Similar guidelines will be investigated for the AHSS and EPS Faculties, but the MHLS ones can be used as general principles for all in the meantime.
Postdocs often get involved in supervising students (undergraduate, postgraduate or work experience) alongside their PI.
While this most naturally happens in lab-based environments, in which students require specific technical training and share lab facilities with postdocs, postdocs from all disciplines should consider getting involved in supervision to develop management skills.
Supervision may be initiated by a request from the PI (to support students in the group) but 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 students. Students can be enrolled in a PhD, Master, Undergraduate project or even work shadowing students.
Depending on their experience and the situation, 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.
Relevant training and resources:
- Supervising skills for Assistant Supervisors and postdocs (workshop)
- Developing Potential through Mentoring (part of the "Learning for all" programme for all staff)
Postdocs whose contribution to the training and development of a PhD student is significant, encompassing intellectual insight and guidance beyond the sole provision of technical support and training, can apply to see their role recognised by becoming the student's Assistant Supervisor.
Queen's Merit Award enables you to get a widely-recognised certification of your teaching experience for free: the status of Associate-Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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 aim 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 workshops and individual support and feedback. To sign up, you need to be involved in minimum 20 hours of student contact (classroom teaching and/or supervision) in the academic year and submitting a form.
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.
Sharing your experience with PhD candidates and helping them think through their own career plan can be very rewarding, it can have a big impact on students who are unsure about their career, and can help you demonstrate that you have a collegial attitude and are keen to support others.
The Graduate School provides a range of events to PhD candidates every year and are keen to involve postdocs for punctual and short contributions when relevant. You can express your interest to contributing by filling the form below and Graduate School staff will get in touch when they need someone with your profile. Depending on the event, you may be asked to give a short presentation on your career or navigating your PhD, take part in a panel discussion, or talk to students informally as part of a speed-networking or mixer event.
Additional opportunities to support students outside of formal supervision may be available in your School and would be advertised internally (e.g. chairing talks or judging posters at the PhD symposium, mentoring programme for PhDs etc.).
The CED organises events, seminars, and an annual Learning and Teaching Conference, to showcase the latest innovations and trends in higher education teaching
The L&T Hub regroups case studies to showcase good practice at Queen's; it can give you ideas to implement in your own teaching