By Nicole Natur and Sunnie Swinburn (Student Teaching and Learning Consultants)
This is a guest blog post written by two of the students working as Teaching and Learning Consultants here at the University of Huddersfield. As part of their training they were asked to interview one of our National Teaching Fellows.
A new scheme with students working as teaching and learning consultants was introduced in 2012 at The University of Huddersfield. As new consultants we wanted to gain an insight into education and how it has progressed through the years. Janet Hargreaves, Associate Dean of learning and teaching, was kind enough to answer some questions for us. We asked her some details about her career from nursing to teaching and then about the Student Teaching and Learning Consultant scheme (STLC).
Professor Janet Hargreaves, Associate Dean of learning and teaching at the School of Human and Health Sciences, has had a career starting with nursing and now teaches at the University of Huddersfield.
“You don’t have to be the cleverest person in the world and you don’t have to be the most charismatic person in the world but if you look at how you’re doing your teaching… and make it better, you can always improve as a teacher”.
From theatre sister to professor
Janet started her career as a theatre sister working in an operating theatre. Having never pursued University immediately after leaving school at 16, she completed her degree part-time with the Open University when she was 30. She did not consider teaching in particular until she began clinical teaching as a theatre nurse.
Janet did not initially plan to be a professor; she just enjoyed what she did. Over 10 years, she progressed straight from her degree to do her certificate in education and on completion, pursued an MA in health care ethics. She went on to do a doctoral qualification; this was the highest qualification anyone would have expected of her at the time. This was considered to be unusual and also a luxury to have this as it would not have been the norm to have a lot of nursing lecturers with doctorates.
Janet conducts a lot of academic activity outside of the routine of her job, which includes researching and publishing. She found she had all the criteria to become a professor and decided to apply. Janet has always wanted to do more for herself and the University and this is what inspires her. She explains that the University of Huddersfield was the right University for her as it gave her the right encouragement. She found that when completing her academic qualifications, she felt an objective perspective coupled with positive support from those around her contributed towards her journey to where she is today.
Moving towards more student involvement, feedback and student engagement
There have been some positive changes in teaching over the past 15 years. Students are encouraged to be much more involved as there is increased student feedback and engagement. Janet does not believe it is enough for a lecturer to just teach, but that teaching is part of a package that includes research and scholarship. Researching, reading and writing for publications are all evidence of further positive change within teaching.
Bridging the gap between students and teachers
When asked about her views on the STLC scheme, Janet expressed that it is a “really good scheme” that is able to bridge the ‘gap’ between students and teachers. She described the scheme as a double-edged sword that allows students on the scheme with a unique role as peers of students, rather than the teachers to bridge this apparent gap.
The STLC scheme, in Janet’s opinion, would be good if it was regularly offered as part of what the teaching and learning institute does every year. However, some concerns about the scheme are that it may become something that is perceived as remedial, or part of appraisal or performance management. This would, in essence, take away from the potential for positive enhancement through the scheme.
There are a number of aspects that require particular attention when a student observes within a classroom setting. Janet noted a crucial aspect includes the environment, this being the physical space and what it is like to sit in the classroom. Furthermore, the structure of the teaching is also important. Interestingly, Janet pointed out that it is important to observe the students in order to fully understand how the teaching is received.
The STLC scheme at the University of Huddersfield has the potential to influence other universities as it increases its profile and becomes ‘good practice within the (education) sector’.