“Don’t you just get the summer off?”

“Don’t you just get the summer off?” – James Moss
Not quite a million-dollar question, but one I am often asked by students I bump into over the summer months, who seem perplexed to see me on College premises. “But there’s no teaching” they’ll say, which is a fair and accurate statement. My job title is Teaching Fellow, which means I’m employed to design and deliver teaching sessions for our students. Fortunately for me, variety is the spice of life, and there are lots of different ways I spend my time.

Exam marking

This summer I marked way over ten thousand marks worth of questions across five different exams, which is almost 37.5 hours in itself (technically a full week of work!), and these papers get turned around – marked, double-marked and ratified – within ten days in time for the exam board (a meeting with senior teaching staff and external examiners).

Research

This summer I’m working on different research projects, along with all of the other things. Several of these are collaborations with undergraduate students on medical education projects (like evaluating new teaching methods or software to support learning), which is an exciting way to work and provides students with a unique experience (and hopefully a taste of research that can inspire them in the future).

Curriculum development

To ensure we are delivering the best possible education to our students the School of Medicine is in a constant state of development, with short-term changes constantly being proposed, developed and implemented. Longer-term projects (such as our curriculum review) are also in progress, however that’s no reason to stand still until its finished. We are education pioneers and want to develop and trial novel approaches to teaching.

Resits

Unfortunately, not all our students pass their summer exams, so they need to quickly come up with a revision plan for the six-week gap between summer results and the resit exams. We try to support students during this time to get the most out of this time and to manage their workload effectively. This summer I met with six such students and I hope our discussions were useful for their preparations.

Other activities

This summer I took over the role of Physiological Society Representative for Imperial from Professor Cesare Terraciano, so it will be interesting to see how I can promote the Society (and all its benefits) to our students. I’ll have to get my thinking cap on!

I helped plan and deliver the National Heart & Lung Institute’s Bring your Child (or Relative) to Work Day, trying to devise activities to keep 5-year olds, 16-year olds and 40-year olds alike interested and engaged. Not an easy task, but the event seemed successful.

I also went to Helsinki to the AMEE (Association for Medical Education in Europe) conference in Helsinki (that’s in Finland). It was great hearing how institutions across the world are developing medical education, from leveraging data and analytics in Canada, to the theory of learning games in Iran. Lots of great ideas, although perhaps sadly, I was most impressed by (jealous of?) the Finnish rail network, which makes the UK system look like water pistols on the battlefield.

So no, I don’t get a twelve-week summer holiday because the students aren’t here, but I still made the most of the summer sun (and the sea, fig 1)!

Fig. 1: Recent photos from UK diving trips to Eyemouth (Scotland) & the Farne Islands (Northumberland)

Fig. 1: Recent photos from UK diving trips to Eyemouth (Scotland) & the Farne Islands (Northumberland)

Fortunately, my job is wonderfully diverse, and I think all of the activities I get up to are working towards the common goals of improving the quality of our students’ educational experience, and promoting science and learning wherever possible. Hopefully this will come across as I ‘block download’ my thoughts into this blog throughout the year. I will endeavour to give a reflection on the ‘student journey’ over the coming academic year and how I work to constantly improve that experience.

Dr James Moss is Senior Physiology Teaching Fellow based at Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI).

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