Finally, the session on teaching and curriculum design was given to TRS students by Mel Prideaux, a Teaching Fellow atLeeds. Given her background as a secondary school teacher, it was interesting to hear that part of her current job is to help new undergraduates adjust from the highly varied and interactive teaching methods in modern schools, to the more traditional lecture-style approach of universities. She went through the elements of planning a course and getting it approved atLeeds, noting the importance of objectives and learning outcomes as guides to that process. Most universities will follow a similar pattern, and it was observed that it is now compulsory for new members of the teaching staff to undertake a postgraduate teaching qualification. More and more universities are now offering part of this qualification to PhD students who are Teaching Assistants and it was unanimously agreed that such a course should be taken wherever possible, not only because it will look good on the CV, but because it will exempt the new lecturer from some of the compulsory classes.
One of the contrasts with the Edinburgh day was that the speakers were generally early-career researchers themselves, as opposed to Professors. While we did not, therefore, have the benefit of years of experience, we could hear about recent experience, which was important. The job market is increasingly difficult, and it was sobering to think that many of those attending will not get the jobs for which they hope. This was perhaps summed up by a question in the final plenary session: ‘How long after graduating and not getting a job should I keep the academic dream alive?’ The answer given was that the dream will live as long as you want it to. In practice, I suspect that there is a more finite cut-off period than this, but the encouragement from this day was, at least for the time being, dream on.