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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Dissertation submitted to Technologicl University Dublin in partial fulfilment of M.A. in Higher Education, 2015.


Postgraduate demonstrators (PGDs) are crucial to the smooth running of undergraduate teaching laboratories; however, they are oftentimes exiled to superficial duties such as enforcing health and safety and procedural instruction. The aim of this intrinsic case study was to characterise the support required by postgraduate demonstrators (PGDs) to develop the key pedagogical skills that would assist them in effectively demonstrating undergraduate science teaching labs. Through supporting PGD development, it is hoped to centralise the PGD in the undergraduate teaching lab and set in place the foundations for a move towards undergraduate teaching labs that encompass aspects of tailored research in the School at the centre of the intrinsic case study. Initial key pedagogical skills identification involved stakeholder surveys, discussion fora, prior knowledge based on literature review and personal experience. Once completed, it was clear that appropriate support to develop the key pedagogical skills was not available to the participants of this case study. Thematic analysis indicated an overall shortcoming in PGD support in developing appropriate pedagogical skills, characterised by a lack of PGD confidence in their ability to effectively demonstrate. The under-supported pedagogical skills areas were mapped onto sub-themes of engagement, communication, grading and providing feedback. This provided a rationale to develop a bespoke training course to assist and underpin the PGDs development as novice academics; to address pedagogical skills gaps and this was delivered following a socially constructed, ‘just-in-time’ pedagogy. Upon completion, the effectiveness of this model of PGD pedagogical training to suitably support PGDs in their pedagogical development was evaluated by stakeholder survey and discussion fora. Overall, it was noted that the training course had a very positive influence on the PGDs; they developed a noticeable increase in confidence in their ability to demonstrate, they took on additional responsibilities in the lab and developed their own community of practice. Based on the perceived improvement observed in this intrinsic case study, it is recommended that with continual training and appropriate support PGDs can take a more central role in the undergraduate teaching lab and this may allow undergraduate labs to evolve towards a more research centred model that the PGD could enhance and add value to. An in-depth set of recommendations devised from this study is included.