Being a Teaching Associate in Politics and International Relations at Aston University

Our department at Aston University is recruiting at least one new Teaching Associate for next year. This blog is intended to provide a bit of informal advice to prospective applicants, about what we do, who we are, and the sort of things we will be looking for.

 

First – why do we need a teaching associate and what would you do?  Normally, our teaching is done by full-time lecturers with long-term contracts, but in this instance we need maternity cover for one colleague, and there are some other teaching needs in the department, for instance due to study leave.  We also need to cover some other teaching needs that have arisen.

Specifically, one appointee would teach our new, second year undergraduate module on Political Ideologies and Theories each week throughout the year.  This is a new course, a reading list has been prepared, but you would need to prepare each two-hour sessions with the group of around 60 students.  You have a fair amount of freedom in how you structure that.  In addition, we would ask you to support seminar teaching (following content devised by another lecturer) with smaller groups, probably in Introduction to Politics, Introduction to the European Union, and Security Studies.  Another appointee might teach an optional final year module (we can discuss the exact topic), and Introduction to International Relations seminars.  In all of these, you would also be responsible for marking students’ work (though your marks would be “moderated” by a colleague, as happens for all our modules).  There would be other opportunities to teach as well – for instance, we have some final-year optional modules we would like to run on African Political Thought (but this is by no means a requirement) and you might be asked to contribute to group-taught modules for MA students.  In addition to this, you would have some personal tutees who you would support with pastoral issues, you would supervise undergraduate dissertation projects, and you would support undergraduate study skills workshops.  We would ask you to help with outreach activities, such as open days.  We really want all our colleagues, including Teaching Associates, in developing their own initiatives, so if you had an idea for a project, or a guest speaker for instance, you could expect an enthusiastic reception for your ideas.

 

Second – a bit about our team.  We are a medium-sized department, with 17.2 current staff (15 are full-time, three are part-time), excluding one colleague who heads our School, and another who is currently on sabbatical at the Foreign Office.  Of those 18 staff, eight are men, ten are women, and we are a diverse group in terms of our national backgrounds (with nationals of ten different countries!), and we would welcome greater ethnic diversity in our department.  Several colleagues have young families, and all live either in Birmingham or within a sensible commuting distance.  We encourage a diverse workforce including representation of staff with disabilities and will provide support and reasonable adjustments as needed.  Aston is a ‘two ticks’ employer, which means that it has committed to offering an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for a vacancy.  We recruited four new colleagues last year, and have appointed 4.5 new lecturers for next year, reflecting the positive view the University and prospective applicants have of studying with us at Aston.

 

Third – a bit about our students.  Our student body is very diverse (as is the West Midlands region, in which we are based): at the undergraduate level, we attract a good range of students, both on our Single Honours course (Politics and International Relations) and in our joint honours courses (such as Politics and Economics, International Relations and Business, and International Relations and Modern Languages).  These students are overwhelmingly from the state sector, and have scored reasonably highly in their A-levels.  We strongly encourage them to undertake a work or study placement, either in the UK or abroad, in their penultimate year, and find this makes a real difference to their employability, which is very important to us at Aston.  At postgraduate level, we have a good mix of students, and many come from continental Europe, often as part of our joint and double degrees with Rennes, Lille, and Bamberg (with a new programme Metropolitan University in Prague coming on stream next year).

 

Fourth – a bit about working here.  We are passionate teachers – staff regularly observe each other’s teaching, several colleagues have won prizes in this area, and we often compare notes on ways of teaching and keeping students engaged (for instance, students may do “simulations”, policy reports, role plays, group assignments and produce films as part of their courses).  We take our MA students on an annual study visit to Brussels, and have also had regular study visits to London.

 

We are all strong believers in keeping our discipline relevant to everyday life.  So we hold regular lunchtime seminars for students and staff on current affairs, we recently held an event with the Parliamentary Outreach Service on Parliament and BAME communities and another with local young people on their views on the EU referendum, and our team often write blogs aimed at an audience beyond academia.  We also regularly engage with policy-makers, holding events in London and Brussels where we can discuss our ongoing research with practitioners, and feed into and shape policy discussions.

 

In this blog, I am not referring specifically to research because this is a “teaching only” post.  However, it would be very welcome if you had experience of conducting and publishing research, and in the recent past many of our teaching associates have gone on to full lecturerships elsewhere.  We will offer you a mentor to help with your professional development, and you would be very welcome to present your research to our fortnightly PIR research seminar (colleagues would also welcome your input on their research).

 

If you are interested in applying, here are some things to consider:

 

  • The key document in shortlisting will be your answers to the questions online application form (which will be scored according to whether you have met our criteria), as well as your CV. Make sure you look carefully at our person specification before applying.
  • We are likely to read quite a few applications, and for that reason we need candidates to have completed, or at least submitted, their Ph.D.
  • Do think about how you would make things work at Aston (based on the information in the further particulars and this blog!) and set these out, relating them, if you can, to your experience. For instance, if you found a particular way of teaching students worked very well, do say so!
  • If you are shortlisted, you are likely to have a job interview with me, Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, and one or two other colleagues, for about half an hour. The date of Monday 24th July is unlikely to change, so try to keep this free.  If you can possibly attend in person, this is always best, though if you are abroad on that day, we may be able to set something up with Skype.  We will pay travel expenses to the interview.  Normally the first question will be about why you want to work at Aston, so you’d want to give this some serious thought in advance.

 

If you have any questions, please drop me a line at e.turner@aston.ac.uk, and we can catch up on the telephone or Skype if necessary afterwards.

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