Thursday, June 14, 2018

University Training for Casual Academics

As one of the "permanent casuals" of Australian academia, I found Baik, Naylor and Corrin's work on how to support us of great interest (2018). I was a reluctant student of education, but when on to complete the ANU Graduate Certificate in HE. As the Authors point out, most university teaching is carried out by non-permanent staff. This has its advantages, as experts from industry can share their current experience with students. Also those with more recent experience as a student (such as graduate students) make better teachers. The Authors focus on a Framework for
sessional teachers at the University of Melbourne. 
It was not clear how much Professional Development the Baik, Naylor and Corrin had in mind for staff. There is mention of a "paid induction program as well as two hours of paid ongoing PD". However, it is not clear how extensive the induction program is, or if it is part of a formal educational qualification.
One area where I don't agree with the authors is on the role of online and face-to-face training for teaching. They suggest an online option should be provided, but only as a fall-back for those who can't come to class. I suggest this policy is outdated. Most students in Australian university courses are now blended and students don't come to class if there is an online alternative. Those teaching need experience in what it is like to be an online student, as that is what most of their students are. They best way to learn to teach online is by being an online student.

ps: In my own case, I like that as an Adjunct I am considered part of the academic staff, but I mostly don't have to go to meetings. However, the lack of permanent employment can have a corrosive effect on early career academics. When asked about postgraduate programs I suggest to prospective students they look at masters coursework programs and professional doctorates, which will qualify them for careers outside academia. With a secure job in industry they then have the option of being part time academics. However, those who instead choose the PhD path have only a very slim chance of ever getting a secure job as an academic and will not be as well qualified for industry.


Chi Baik, Ryan Naylor & Linda Corrin (2018) Developing a framework for university-wide improvement in the training and support of ‘casual’ academics, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, DOI: 10.1080/1360080X.2018.1479948

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