One of the problems faced by postgraduate seminar tutors is the lack of support and advice on how best to perform in the classroom. I discovered a very useful website created by Emma Stafford of Royal Holloway that offers some tips on how to overcome challenges and teach while doing your postgrad degree. Please click here to see the full piece.
The dilemma of postgraduate teaching is that postgrads need it to gain experience and departments need postgrads to teach to save money on expensive full time acadmic staff. The challenges of fitting teaching in around doing a PhD should not be underestimated. But the use of postgrads allows eminent professors to take time off to undertake their research. Are postgraduates being taken advantage of? Their skills are used with little or no support or encouragement to be involved in the life of the department or even decision making on the courses that they teach.
Another issue is that as undergraduates increasingly see themselves as ‘customers’ because of the high fees they are paying they might feel short changed if taught by postgraduates. I think this perception is wrong, because postgrads usually make excellent teachers (far better than jaded old academics!) but they are universally seen as a cheaper alternative and students feel short-changed.
The consensus seems to be that the better a department treats its postgrad teachers (offering them an office, decent training or a say in course design), the more respect students have for them as well. That really would be of benefit to everyone.