In the comments section of our latest "How can we help you?" post, 'UK grad student' writes in:
I'm a graduate student now, but I was wondering what I can do to gain relevant teaching experience before I go on the job market in a couple of years.
The problem is that my institution, like, I think, the majority of institutions in the UK, does not allow graduate students to design courses or teach as primary instructors. We can apply for seminar teaching, and for giving one or two guest lectures. But if we never design a course, we won't have any evidence a committee can look at demonstrating that we'd be able to do so. I suspect that this could be a major issue when applying for teaching positions.
The official reason why graduate students are prevented from designing and teaching courses is that the university is concerned with the quality of teaching -- the assumption being that students are worse than more senior researchers and professors. (Of course it is not clear that this is a good reason!). I wonder if students at other institutions with such a policy have been successful in getting their institution to somehow allow students to gain some teaching experience besides seminar leading.
But I'm also interested in advice about how to put together some evidence that one would be able to design and teach an entire course even when one does not have a chance to actually do this during their PhD.
My query may not be relevant to all early career researchers -- especially not to those who have gotten their PhD in the US, where, as far as I know, gaining some teaching experience as a primary instructors is easier.
An anonymous reader followed up:
UK grad student,
I would think that this would not be an impediment to getting a job in the UK, given that it is the norm there. The US market is different. But then again so are the Ph.D. programmes. You should only worry if you plan to apply for jobs elsewhere.
I would recommend that you do some seminar teaching and guest lecturing. Then someone will be able to speak to your abilities in reaching such audiences.
Fair points - but (A) in my experience, many UK PhDs are indeed looking for jobs abroad, and (B) given the kinds of institutional restrictions 'UK grad student' mentions (i.e. grad students not being permitted to teach), it is not entirely clear to me how grad students in the UK might go about doing some seminar teaching or guest-lecturing.
Can anyone with experience in the UK provide more determinate practical advice? Is it possible to get seminar teaching or guest-lecturing gigs while in grad school? If so, how? If not, are there any other options available? These seem to me vital issues for UK grad students, as (at least in my experience) teaching-focused jobs in the US appear to care very much about candidates not only having teaching experience, but a track record of success in the classroom.