Reviews and Research

Publishing as a Teaching Fellow

In my post, Teaching Fellow or Lecturer, I highlighted some differences between the role of a teaching fellow and a lecturer, at least in the organisation where I work. The main difference I highlighted is the fact that a teaching fellow is expected to primarily focus on teaching. This means that while a lecturer might be given less teaching load in order to allow reasonable time for the lecturer to engage in research activities, the teaching fellow is given more teaching load with limited time for research related activities. As a result, the average teaching fellow is less likely to have as many publications or research output as the average lecturer. On face value, this should not be a concern as the teaching fellow is usually assessed using teaching related outcomes. Interestingly, there is an expectation that teaching related outcomes should include involvement in, or publication of teaching related research, and herein lies the issue. Since teaching fellows spend most of their academic time on teaching related activities, there is little time left for research; so how can a teaching fellow still publish despite this time constraint?

From anecdotal experience, one approach to addressing this issue is by fusing research related activities into teaching commitments. For instance, a teaching fellow might identify an issue within their module, then set out a plan for addressing the issue. This plan might include collecting relevant data that might be used for research purpose and noting changes or impact of their plan which can then be presented at a teaching conference and/or written up for publication in a teaching related journal. Another idea could be to collaborate with colleagues to work on a research project or supervise a project which is likely to lead to more research related outcomes. Some colleagues have made their doctoral research the focus of their research output by publishing findings from their research and building on research conducted during their doctoral studies. In some departments, the teaching plan might be such that staff have one term with little or no teaching commitment which presents an opportunity for staff to work on research ideas or proposals. However, this is not the reality for some; therefore, for the teaching fellow, finding the time to engage in research related activities is a constant struggle.

For me, finding the time to engage in research related activities is one thing, motivation is another thing. In this case, motivation is multi-pronged. If I’m given the option to choose between teaching and research, I would choose teaching any day; but I also have research interests that I explore. One on hand, I’m usually keen to incorporate current trends and relevant research in my teaching as this helps to buttress important points and can sometimes make topics more relatable to students. I also value results from teaching related publications as this can provide pointers on how I can improve or continuously evolve my teaching; therefore, this motivates me to engage with existing research. However, finding the motivation to engage in research related activities can sometimes be tricky as I would rather break my back teaching, than conducting research. This is one of many reasons why I prefer a teaching fellow role to a lecturing role; nonetheless, the expectation for teaching fellows to engage in some form of research means that somehow, I have to find the time, motivation and other resources needed to at least engage in teaching related research. So, if you think being a teaching fellow is a good alternative to research, you might want to check the small prints 😊

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