This term I have started teaching my ten week MA module entitled The Atlantic World 1450-1800. This is the second year that I have run this unit,. not only giving me the confidence that the thing works at all, but a little breathing space because I don’t have to design the unit from scratch. As all teachers know, it’s always easier the second time round!
Masters level teaching is a thrilling experience when compared to undergrad classes. For a start you are working with much smaller groups, so you can get to know every student and his or her interests and needs personally: exactly the way it should be. Also, masters students are almost always the brightest of the bunch and the most enthusiastic. When you ask them to read something in preparation for a class, they actually do so!
Of course it is also challenging for a teacher used to working with undergraduates. You have to prepare for class in much more depth. Your MA students will expect you to be knowledgeable about the latest research in the field, about key historiographical debates and so on, whereas most undergrads seem to simply want to be told what they need to do to pass. Postgraduate students have the confidence to question and challenge you, so you had better know your stuff!
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to teach at postgraduate level, I would recommend putting yourself forward as early as possible in your career. It will remind you why you wanted to become an academic in the first place and may jolt you out of the complacency and cynicism that undergraduate teaching sometimes engenders.