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PhD Skills Development

In-House Teaching Training Programme

The School of Modern Languages prides itself on offering its research postgraduate students not only excellent conditions for study, but also ample opportunity to gain relevant teaching experience. This experience helps to enhance their CVs, improve their employability and better prepare them for the life of a professional academic.

The in-house training programme delivered by the School’s Language Development Officer is designed specifically to provide postgraduate students with guidance, support and inspiration in their teaching throughout the academic year. Sessions are scheduled regularly each semester and cover key teaching techniques as well as practical ideas and activities for use in the classroom. Topics range from an introduction to lesson planning, classroom management, marking and assessment, to the discussion of body language in the classroom and of case studies. Postgraduate students are also offered the chance to familiarise themselves with the virtual learning environment, Moodle, used widely across the School, and are introduced to the basics of the University’s Module Management System (MMS) and the School’s Multi-Media Centre.

As well as aiming to equip postgraduate students with the tools and techniques to deliver their teaching competently, the training programme also provides some background knowledge of and insight into the methodology and pedagogy of teaching and serves as a useful forum for the open exchange of ideas, teaching practices and experiences within the School.

Observing Teaching

This exercise has been devised to complement the already existing training programme and will be mandatory for incoming postgraduate students in the course of their first year at St. Andrews. It offers the opportunity to sit in on a variety of classes in the School of Modern Languages in order to benefit from the wide range of approaches, methodologies and teaching techniques employed by colleagues on a daily basis. To optimize this experience, postgraduates would normally sign up for different types of classes including:

  • One Language class at beginners level
  • One Language class at advanced level (with focus on grammar/written work)
  • One Language class at advanced level (with focus on oral work)
  • One large (more than 30 students) and one small (less than 30 students) Literature lecture
  • One Literature tutorial/seminar.

There would not normally be more than one postgraduate student in any observed class in order not to upset the balance of smaller groups in particular.

Postgraduates are given a set of observation tasks in order to help them follow the classes in a structured, focused and targeted manner. De-briefing sessions will be held afterwards where there is a chance to reflect further on the pedagogy and methodology of teaching and to discuss particular issues so that the whole experience can inform and improve postgraduates’ own teaching in future.

The image below is an overview of the process. You can also view comments from postgraduate students who have already participated in this exercise.

Observing teaching - overview 


An award-winning generic skills development programme for postgraduate researchers, GRADskills, is now available for research students at St Andrews. It aims to provide opportunities for PhD and MPhil students to enhance their capabilities as researchers and improve their future employability through the acquisition of generic research and personal development skills. Design of this university-wide programme has taken account of the recommendations of the UK Research Councils, as well as current postgraduates and academic supervisors. Topics covered are within the categories of Research Management, Networking and Team Working, Personal Effectiveness and Career Management, and the high quality of the programme is maintained by using a wide range of trainers, consultants and other professionals to deliver workshops and advanced training courses. Development of skills is further enhanced by the use of a Postgraduate Logbook as a personal development planning tool. Participation in the programme also enables postgraduates to take advantage of the events offered in collaboration with UK GRAD and other external organisations. Further details of the GRADskills programme are available on GRADskills pages.

Gradskills logo


See also

CAPOD - Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development, University of St Andrews