The last couple of years have seen some big changes in the ways that teaching has had to be achieved at SBS. From the turmoil of Covid and taking everything online, to the recent move to the all-new Science Teaching Hub (STH). But one thing has remained the same, the commitment from staff to ensuring that undergraduates enjoy the best learning experience possible.
These efforts are often supported by Demonstrators. What is a demonstrator I hear you ask? Demonstrators are PhD researchers who are employed by the university to provide additional support to the full time teaching staff, and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my time at the university.
I have just entered the third year of my PhD and I am glad to be back demonstrating, as I really enjoy the experience of interacting with the undergraduate students, some of whom are just starting their degrees, and some who are approaching the end. It is extremely rewarding to be able to support these students as they progress, and I personally find that being able to share some of my experiences (often from the same courses when I studied them) enables students to feel more relaxed and enjoy the experience of learning and working in an environment that can be daunting if you are not used to it.
Over the last couple of years, I have demonstrated for several courses, including the level 1 course Diversity of Life 1 & 2, and this year it was great to be able to introduce the first-year students to the new STH which opened earlier this year. It was great to see the engagement that this new cohort had with the activities they were tasked with, which included creating a dichotomous key for a theoretical new phylum of bolts & screws and learning about some of the most important steps on the evolutionary timeline. In another class, I am helping to introduce second year students to statistics, and I recognise many faces from Diversity 1 & 2 last year. Seeing a familiar face (although no longer half covered in a mask) helps to put students at ease when embarking on what for many can be a daunting area of study, and I like to think that I have helped them feel more at ease, at least in some small way.
From my early experiences with online only teaching, to socially distanced classes with everyone wearing face masks, it is wonderful to see a return to the “business as usual” teaching, and I look forward to working and engaging with our students over the coming year, and I would recommend to any of our PGR community to consider demonstrating. It is a wonderfully rewarding experience and you learn new transferable skills (especially if you are considering a career in teaching).