How to improve as a lecturer

Within academic fields, lecturing plays an integral role in creating the next generation of academics and professionals, granting the skills, abilities and knowledge to get them started on their chosen career.

Lectures remain to be the most effective way of teaching in a higher education setting, and while the core idea behind lecturing remains the same, new technologies and new approaches to learning have changed the teaching landscape.

Some of the best lecturers in universities and colleges are constantly evolving the way they teach with these new developments in mind in order to ensure their students get access to the best education possible.

But continually improving as a lecturer is a challenge in itself – how does one become a better lecturer? What qualities and characteristics make for a good teacher? In this article, we’re going to take a look at how lecturing can be improved to give a better higher education experience for students of all levels.

What is the responsibility of a lecturer in higher education?

The traditional role of a lecturer within a higher education setting is to deliver education to students on their course, teaching course materials within their field to help their students get the most out of their degrees. This can include things like:

  • Giving lectures on course topics
  • Course preparation and lecture planning
  • Holding seminars and tutorials for more interactive learning
  • Writing and marking assessment exams
  • Writing and designing teaching materials for students

Beyond those core responsibilities, modern lecturers are also expected to:

  • Assist PhD and Master students with their research activities
  • Embark on personal research projects as a research university lecturer
  • Write academic papers
  • Act as mentors and provide pastoral care for students
  • Contribute to the activities organised by their school

There are many more duties that lecturers have within their jobs and careers – you can learn more about what lecturers do with this helpful guide.

What are the qualities of a good lecturer?

The first step to improving as a lecturer is to understand the kind of qualities that make for a good lecturer. These can include things like:

  • Being engaging ­– Having a lecturer who is switched on, always ready to spark discussion and communication, and always open to finding new ways to engage students is key to keeping things fresh and interesting.
  • Being compassionate ­– All students are human beings with their own personal lives. Being understanding when things happen in these personal lives is essential for supporting your students to be the best learners they can be.
  • Being enthusiastic – Enthusiasm as a lecturer will keep you interested in everything you have to teach, and that passion for your subject will come through in your teaching and higher education skills, gifting your students with an enthusiasm for learning.
  • Being proactive – Taking an active interest in your students will make them feel valued as part of the education institution. Check in with your students regularly to ensure your teaching is doing its job and that all class members are able to keep up.
  • Being approachable – Having a lecturer who’s hard to approach as a student can quickly derail progress on a module. Try to ensure you’re as welcoming to everyone in your college or university as you can be to ensure a positive lecturer-student academic relationship.

How to improve as a lecturer

So now we come to the crux of the question – how exactly does one improve as a lecturer? How does one thrive in university lecturer jobs? Let’s look at three ways you can become a better lecturer:

Our first tip is helping your students understand how to process your feedback. Negative and positive feedback are key building blocks for a student’s understanding of a subject, so them being able to learn and adapt from that feedback is essential. One way to do this is by requiring your students to send you a draft of any coursework for you as a lecturer to look through and provide feedback for. Once you’ve checked it over, arrange a meeting where you both go over the feedback you’ve provided so that lessons can be learned and a deeper understanding gained. This interactive element added to the course will help you improve as a teacher and help the student earn better grades.

Our second tip is to consider asking one of your peers in your institution to sit in on one of your lectures. It can be hard to get feedback from your students on the quality of your lecturers because they may not be as willing as other academics are to talk about what needs improving. Asking a peer is a great move, especially if they’re older and more experienced, because they’ll know what works and what doesn’t. They’ll know what it’s like to be up in front of a lecture hall full of students so they’ll be best placed to let you know what’s going well and what’ll need a bit of improvement. Write these suggestions down and create your own action plan to ensure you’re incorporating the feedback in your lecturing.

Our third and final tip is use student questions as a basis for creating your lecture. The questions your students ask you are generally indicative of the areas of your course that are tougher or less clear than others. By answering questions wherever they crop up, whether in the lecture hall or after teaching is finished, you’re directly addressing the toughest parts of the curriculum as you go. If you get a question from a student by email about a certain segment, write the question down and bring it to your next lecture to answer – this way, you’ll be answering the question for students who don’t have the confidence to raise the query in person or by email. It’ll make life much easier for both and your students in the long run.

All of these are higher education skills that can be learnt on the job, but for those who want to reach their full potential as a lecturer, a PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice) course can be just the thing for those looking to improve their university lectures online and in person.

Frequently asked questions

What does a higher education lecturer do?

Higher education lecturers are academics who are hired by universities, colleges and other academic organisations to lead courses, teach students and carry out research in their chosen field on behalf of their institution.

They perform an essential role in universities that goes beyond the above duties, assisting with administrative work, providing pastoral care for students, organising events within their faculty and much more to ensure that the students in their school have as rewarding and as fulfilling a higher education experience as they possibly can.

You can learn more about what it means to be a higher education lecturer here.

What is expected of a lecturer?

Lecturers are expected to provide students with a positive learning and higher education experience, through teaching, assessment, pastoral care and administrative support. They are also expected to contribute to their institution’s research profile by carrying out research and writing papers on their area of expertise.

Each institution will have its own expectations of what lecturers should do, but they all stems from the above ideas about higher education lecturing.

What qualifications do you need to be a higher education lecturer?

Becoming a higher education lecturer is the start of a rewarding career path that helps you develop as a person and as a professional academic.

In terms of the degrees you’ll need to become a higher education lecturer, you’ll need to have at the very least a higher education degree within your field of study – however, for almost every faculty and discipline, you’ll need a PhD to be considered for a lecturer role. Other certificates from other academic-focused degree courses, such as a PGCAP, can also help you stand out from your competitors.

For many lecturers, teaching is the major responsibility in their day-to-day work, so getting to be the best lecturer is an important career objective.

One of the best ways to improve as a lecturer is to complete a course that provides you with the higher education skills you’ll need to refine the way you teach and how you support your students. The University of Liverpool’s Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice is one of these courses, designed to give lecturers a better understanding of teaching, creating course materials, online lecturing, teacher-student academic relationships and more.

Find out more about how the PGCAP can help you succeed as a higher education lecturer here.

Keywords: Higher Education, PGCAP

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