Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Well, in a change from my usual rambling on about the usually dull things I've been getting up to I thought I'd write a bit about lecturing today. More specifically what I think makes a good lecturer.

This has been inspired by the fact that modules are now drawing to a close for the last time in my chemistry degree and over the 3 years I've had lecturers from over 30 academics. Out of all of those, if I look back I'd suggest that perhaps 3 of them were/are exceptional. I shan't name names, but I know that this opinion is at least shared by my group of friends. All 3 of them have reached the position of professor and although some aspects are shared, on the whole they have very different teaching styles.

At this point I'd like to say that with the exception of a couple (again - I'm not going to name names here!) the rest have been very good too, but it's just that these 3 stand out as the best of a good bunch!

So what is it that they've done that's meant I've formed this opinion of them?

I guess the first thing is that they clearly know their stuff to such a level that they can answer just about any question thrown at them, and if they don't know (perhaps because it's not directly related to their specialism), they'll admit it, but will go away and look it up and explain it to you!

This isn't the most important thing though, as most of the lecturers (can definitely think of one exception here mind!), will know the material they're lecturing inside out, at least around the time of the lecture course. For me, I think the most important thing is the clear passion for teaching. They genuinely care about passing on knowledge to the students and will often go the extra mile to do this. It really does show through when they're lecturing to us.

This one might be more of a personal thing as I guess everyone likes to learn in different ways, but common to the people I'm thinking of are clearly defined learning outcomes (not necessarily explicitly stated but there are many lectures that I leave thinking "what have I actually learnt from this?". This is definitely good when it comes to exams as you know what it expected of you.

A sense of humour is also important I think, the ability to engage us students (who especially by 3rd year have mainly lost the will to learn anything!) with jokes and experiences really helps. Nothing over the top, but where appropriate it really works. It gets us paying attention and often aids memory as well.

I should probably balance this with things I don't like. Apart from the obvious lecturer being unprepared and not really knowing what they're doing, lectures which send me and many of my colleagues to sleep are the classic monotonous death by powerpoint lectures. A few examples spring to mind where an academic has just read from the slides and has clearly had the mindset of "this is what the students need for the exam, I will deliver them the material in the quickest and easiest way possible for me and be done with it". Equally annoying is the "I'm going to give you handouts, and have a power point presentation but then spend most of the lecture talking about things which aren't relevant in any way because that's just how I roll".

Don't know if it's just me, but where we've had a particularly good lecturer for a module I've often been inspired to go away and put in the effort and do some extra work myself to ensure success in a exam, whereas the less good ones I tend to find myself not thinking about in the gaps between the lectures, and only really doing as much as work as I have to. I expect this will be reflected in exam grades!

On a more personal note, it has become clear over the almost 3 years I've been here (and particularly over the last 6 months) that there are some academics that care about the students, and some that don't. I've been pleasantly surprised recently to find a number that really are lovely and are clearly going out of their way to be helpful, and often doing the job of others who it would appear care an awful lot less! So, er - thanks if you're one of the good ones!

In a quick change of subject, as I needed a photo of something here's my lunch! Toast, cheese, bacon, beans and BBQ sauce. It was amazing. Definitely too much food though. I'm not even remotely hungry yet so I expect a late dinner is on the cards tonight!

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