How to start teaching as a doctoral student
Find out more about how to get involved with teaching, the training you will need and what support is available.
How do I get involved with teaching?
When considering teaching, you should firstly ensure that any commitments comply with any funding conditions and the conditions of your visa, if you hold one. Processes vary between departments and the School so you should check what regulations apply in relation to your specific arrangements.
You should also discuss your interest in teaching with your supervisors to understand how you can get involved and carefully consider whether you can undertake teaching alongside your studies and any other commitments. Usually, someone in the department or School will coordinate all teaching: typically the Director of Undergraduate Teaching, Departmental Coordinator or a designated Tutor Coordinator.
Training and approval
In order to teach, you will first be expected to complete a compulsory training course - Teaching introduction for postgraduates who teach - which is offered as part of the DoctoralSkills programme.
The morning session offers a general introduction to teaching practice and the Graduate Teaching Assistant role, followed by a thematic workshop in the afternoon, related to your specific teaching context. You are required to attend the whole of the one-day course in order to achieve your approval to teach. In addition to this compulsory course, your department or School may also offer additional training.
There are a few departments who offer a recognised alternative to the DoctoralSkills course – please check with your department or the School for details.
Once you have completed the compulsory training, your Head of Department/School, OR Director of Studies OR Nominated Alternative will need to complete QA9 Form 1 Approval of Student Teaching Assistants. The approval of the Student Teaching Assistant forms is handled by the University Board of Studies (Doctoral).
The University’s QA9 statement makes clear the opportunities for, and expectations and requirements of, all staff and students who teach and/or assess students.
Contacts and support
Department or School: Your main points of contact will be the Unit Convenor, Departmental Coordinator or Tutor Coordinator. Your department or School should tell you where to direct different kinds of enquiries, depending on their individual arrangements. Additionally they may have a mentoring scheme for doctoral students who teach.
The Postgraduate Association (PGA): The PGA has a dedicated student member in its executive for Graduate Teaching support, helping to enhance the experience of postgraduates who teach including training, conditions and support. For more information, or if you have any suggestions on developing and improving the experience of postgraduates who teach, please get in touch with Millie Green.
University and College Union (UCU): If you are a doctoral student employed to teach, you qualify for FREE UCU membership. UCU is offering up to four years free membership to support the rapidly increasing numbers of postgraduate students who are paid to teach but who do not have a permanent teaching or lecturing contract. Members benefit from free employment and legal advice, the opportunity to have a say in local and national decision making and a range of career development opportunities. Call 0333 207 0719 for your free membership or sign up online. If you’re already a member you’ll still qualify for free membership – simply login to their website and amend your membership status.
Showcasing your teaching experience
If you would like some help with reflecting on the skills you have gained from your teaching experience, why not sign up for our new session from the DoctoralSkills programme - Articulating the value of teaching experience?
This session will help you to understand the breadth of the skills you have acquired and give you the tools to effectively market them in job applications both inside and outside of academia. It's primarily aimed at doctoral students who already have some teaching experience, but it may also be useful for those considering teaching too.
You may also find the Vitae Teaching Lens on the Researcher Development Framework a useful tool to reflect on and express what you have gained from teaching. And finally, The Cambridge Early Career Blog has some useful tips on how to talk about your teaching in interviews for academic and HE teaching roles.
For further advice about how you can use your teaching skills to help your career, please contact Anne Cameron (Research Career Development Advisor).
Teaching enhances doctoral students' ability to translate their research to different audiences which is an essential skill for a successful researcher.
Dr Cassie Wilson, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences