When I started my PhD I thought about research. In the UK there are no lectures for PhD students, it’s purely about the thesis. It is perfectly feasible to leave a UK university completely ignorant of anything to do with teaching. I’ve been lucky at Leicester as I’ve met Prof. Derek Raine, who heads the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and, through him, I’ve met Alan Cann, who’s AoB’s Internet Consulting Editor. He’s news at the University of Leicester this week, thanks to his Senior Fellowship status of the Higher Education Academy.
If you’re looking for evidence that the division between research and teaching is arbitrary then Alan Cann should be exhibit number one.
The first course of his that I helped out on was Statistics for Biologists. This could easily have been agony. Alan’s approach wasn’t simply to work out what to put in, but also what to leave out. The difference, that I’ve not seen so explicitly by anyone else, is that Alan also quantifies what is working, who engages with tasks, when and how. This results in research papers based on these entry-level courses. This isn’t for the sake of evaluation or course accreditation. It’s from a genuine research curiosity, how do we make this work better?
When I designed a module of the Interdisciplinary Science course the only thing I’d thought about was hitting the bullet points of topic we needed to cover. The next time I take on course design there’ll be a very different approach in evaluating how well the course works. Alan Cann’s work will be a big influence on that.
As well as blogging here, he has his own site at Science of the Invisible, where you can go over to congratulate him.