Sessional teaching staff orientation programs

Sessional teachers work in a variety of settings and are referred to by a range of titles including tutors, demonstrators, lecturers, clinical tutors, seminar leaders and teaching assistants. Although they are diverse in their backgrounds, experiences, expectations and in the specific roles they take within a department or faculty, sessional teachers share a common place at the forefront of small group teaching at the university. For many students, particularly undergraduates, sessional teachers are the personal face of the University.

Sessional teachers therefore play a crucial role in creating an environment that is welcoming and conducive to student learning. This means promoting an intellectually challenging and stimulating environment where all students are encouraged to participate actively in the learning process. Sessional teachers are also well-placed to support and show concern for the individual development of their students, as well as to give timely feedback on students’ progress and achievement.

Programs for new sessional teaching staff are typically provided by individual Faculties and Graduate Schools. Some large courses and/or departments also run discipline-specific programs. All new sessional staff are encouraged to enquire about orientation and other professional development opportunities offered in their area.

The CSHE has a variety of resources on teaching and learning and can offer advice and strategies for teachers at the university. Of note, The Melbourne Sessional Teacher's Handbook is an valuable resource, providing advice and strategies for small group teaching at this University.

For doctoral candidates who are thinking about an academic teaching career following their PhD, we offer the Melbourne Teaching Certificate (MTC).

For sessional teachers who wish to enhance their teaching skills, Melbourne CSHE will be runs a 2 day intensive, Advanced Skills Program for Sessional Teachers: Enhancing your teaching skills and developing your career in university teaching.

The Online Induction for Sessional Teachers, launched in 2014, is available to all sessional teachers of the University.

For more information on programs and resources for sessional teachers, please contact Dr Chi Baik.

External resources that may be useful:

Small-group teaching
Small-group Teaching (Oxford Brookes University)
This website produced by Oxford Brookes University provides a useful guide to small group teaching.  It outlines the characteristics of a small-group teaching environment and provides detailed strategies for encouraging discussion.

Working as a Tutor (University of Queensland)
This website from the University of Queensland covers a variety of topics on working as a tutor, from presenting and facilitating to handling difficult situations.

Leading Discussions

The Derek Bok Centre, Harvard University, has a series of tip sheets on leading discussions in academic teaching sessions. The Leading Discussions tipsheet provides practical prompts for tutors leading discussions.

Laboratory Teaching

Demonstrating in Laboratory and Practical Classes  (The University of Waikato)

The University of Sheffield’s Toolkit for Learning and Teaching also offers a helpful guide to Lab Demonstrating.

Clinical Teaching
Clinical Teaching (University of Michigan)
This site provides a detailed guide to clinical teaching and offers strategies for teaching at the bedside.

Teaching on the Run: Teaching with Patients (Medical Journal of Australia)
This easy-to-read guide to teaching with patients was produced by the Medical Journal of Australia.

Assessment and Feedback
Grading and Feedback (Derek Bok Centre, Harvard University)
The Derek Bok Centre web page on grading and feedback is an excellent resource for teachers.  The web page distils the complex area of assessment into three principles: purpose, clarity and consistency.  In addition, it provides links to external sites which give greater detail on grading and feedback practices.

Professional Development
Teaching Portfolios (Derek Bok Centre, Harvard University)
The Derek Bok Centre has produced a detailed how-to guide to producing a teaching portfolio.  It outlines the components of a teaching portfolio and provides links to external sites.  There is also a useful guide to preparing for academic interviews.