Home > Staff and students > Staff > Teaching at LSE > Handbook for graduate teaching assistants > Section 1: Being a GTA at LSE > 1.3 The differences between undergraduate and postgraduate teaching

 

1.3 The differences between undergraduate and postgraduate teaching

Undergraduate teaching

The GTA operates in the context of the following set of 'relationships'.

Each course is run by a course coordinator or teacher responsible. This person would normally give some or all of the lectures associated with the course and have overall responsibility for its academic direction and assessment. S/he may also run one or more of the classes associated with the course, and has responsibility for ensuring that any class teachers working on the course are properly briefed as to the course content, process and assessment.

The course will be part of at least one, but more often several, different programmes. As such, students on any given course may be drawn from a variety of different programmes, and quite possibly from different home departments. Many courses will also have General Course students. These are students visiting the LSE in their second or third year from another university overseas (mainly, though not exclusively, from the US).

Each programme in a department comes under the oversight of the departmental tutor. Each undergraduate student also has an academic adviser, a full-time member of academic staff based in their home department. The academic adviser has an important pastoral role, as well as one of academic guidance (eg the academic adviser may help his/her students to make choices about courses, advise them on progress, help them consider career options, offer advice and refer students to various other support services across the School, etc).

If students face difficulties or find themselves in conflict with staff on their course and/or programme, they can turn to the head of the department. Some will also seek advice from the departmental manager. In serious cases, the student can seek advice from the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.  

The vast majority of undergraduates are registered onto a three-year programme. Very few students are part time. A programme generally comprises of four courses per year, each spanning across the Michaelmas, Lent and early part of the Summer terms. There are some 'half units' courses which last only one term. Many courses can be taken by students who are at different stages of their programme, and, as such, you may have a mix of, say, first and second or second and third year students in your class. Most courses have some formative assessment (eg essays, problem sets, class presentations), generally marked (and in some cases set) by class teachers. Each course will be summatively assessed or examined, most often by sit-down two- or three-hour examination, though some departments use some more varied assessments, including essays, projects, dissertations, portfolios and practicals of various kinds. The exam period starts in late May/early June.

Full details of programmes and courses at the undergraduate level are available from the online Calendar|. In addition, many departments now have a departmental undergraduate handbook for their undergraduate programmes. These often contain important and useful information about the programmes, details of teaching and assessment approaches in the department, information on study skills, etc. They provide useful contextual information for GTAs, so do ask for copies, or seek them out. They are usually kept in the departmental websites or in Moodle.

LSE100: The LSE Course

You may wish to keep abreast of, and make reference to, the material and skills that students are learning in their compulsory LSE100 classes.

All first year undergraduate students are required to take LSE100 The LSE Course: Understanding the causes of things. This is an interdisciplinary and innovative course which is taught over two terms, the second term of students' first year and the first term of their second year. The course has been designed to use important issues and debates to explore the fundamental issues of evidence, explanation and theory from the perspective of different social science disciplines. By providing an opportunity for students from all degree courses to engage with these issues and debates in the lectures and in small group classes, the course is designed to strengthen skills in three broad areas: methodological skills, information skills and communication skills. Read more about LSE100 and its learning outcomes at the LSE100 website|.

 

Postgraduate teaching

At postgraduate level, most MSc programmes span over a full calendar year (September to September), though a few are only nine months long, finishing in July. Programmes are again made up of courses. Most MScs will comprise three or four taught courses and a dissertation. There are rather more half unit courses at MSc level than at BSc level. Again, formal exams and essays predominate in terms of assessment, though there are many other types of assessment used at MSc level.

MSc courses have course coordinators (similar to the undergraduate teacher responsible). Each programme has a programme coordinator (rather than the departmental tutor at undergraduate level). Again, many courses can be taken by students drawn from more than one programme, and/or department, although they should all be MSc or postgraduate diploma students. Each student should be allocated to a supervisor (whose role is similar to that of the undergraduate academic adviser). Many departments allocate students to a different dissertation supervisor who guides them through the process of writing the dissertation (a common feature of many MSc programmes).

At departmental level, students again have access to the head of department and departmental manager where necessary. Centrally, they can turn to the Dean of  Graduate Studies. Full details of courses and programmes at the graduate level are available from the online Calendar|. In addition, many departments now have departmental programme handbooks for each MSc programme. These often contain important and useful information about the programmes, details of teaching and assessment approaches in the department, information on study skills, etc. They provide useful contextual information for GTAs, so do ask for copies, or seek them out. They are usually accessible via departmental websites or Moodle. 

Previous| | Next|

Share:Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn|