First time tutorial teaching


Hey guys,

I am going to be starting my PhD in October and have been asked b my supervisor whether I want to teach some undergraduate tutorials. I had planned to do this anyway at some point, more for the career development rather than the money, but didn't think I'd get the opportunity until my second year.

I have said that I would be interested, but I'm absolutely terrified of the thought! My degree was joint honours, and half of it was totally unrelated to what I'm doing now, so I haven't covered as much a I would if my degree was single honours. Besides, I was taught the sort of stuff I'll be taking tutorials on about 4 years ago.

I know I will have time to prepare, but I'm just worried that people will ask me a load of stuff that I don't know about! Public speaking isn't one of my strong points either, but I know I need to force myself to do it so that I get used to it.

Is it normal to feel like this? How have other people's experiences of teaching been?


Hello- I felt absolutely terrified when I first had to do some tutorial teaching and in my experience nearly everyone feels similar, although they try not to show it! One of the biggest things I found was that as soon as you are at the front of a class, students just tend to accept it- so I felt like a complete fraud, but the fact that the students treated me as their 'teacher' made me feel more like one, if that makes any sense. In the end it was a great experience, and it does make you feel more confident about speaking in public etc. Another thing is that it really helps to get in depth knowledge about a subject area that you are perhaps only half sure about, because I think PhD teaching assistants overprepare given that is all new. So I really hope it goes well and I think it's pretty normal to be terrified, though everyone's experience is different.


One other thing- I was really worried that I would get asked a question on something I didn't know, but in the end it was all quite basic stuff and you can be surprised at how much you do know through doing it. So good luck.


As someone who has taught both tutorials and lectured undergrads I discovered the secret was not to give the impression you are a world authority on the topic - you're not after all. Teaching is as much about learning as it is giving out knowledge. You may be surprised how much you learn from your students particularly if you have an internationally mixed group. It's great, you'll love it.


When students asked me evil questions I would say: "That's a very interesting question! I'll think about it and get back to you next session." The student in question felt clever and I could find a good answer and bedazzle them in the next session.