The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

2.5 Support staff and sessions to complement core delivery

The support staff available depends on the structure of each institution. If you have a central support unit that includes maths advisors this is an ideal resource. However, central support can often remain de-linked from module delivery and as a result students may not recognise the role of these central staff in supporting their learning. If possible, within the organisational structures, you may wish to ask central support staff to attend maths and stats seminars/workshops. This will provide the session leader with extra resource as well as providing central support staff an understanding of the needs of your learners. It also helps students to identify these staff as central to their learning and teaching experience. If students feel that central support staff understand the material covered in a particular module they are more likely to feel confident to access the centrally offered services outside of the formal teaching sessions.

If maths or stats clinics are not already offered centrally it may be useful to have discussions with staff in the central service. The key is not that these additional clinics are held only for one subject group but that students feel that those staffing the clinic understand the requirements of their module. A further advantage of having an interdisciplinary clinic is that the high and low demand of any particular group of students is spread across students where this is related to varying assessment deadlines. This helps to provide sufficient demand for the service throughout the teaching session.

It is important to discuss and recognise the terms of reference for support staff. If support staff feel pushed to engage in activities that they do not see as part of their role they may disengage. You also need to ensure that support staff receive a full set of materials for your module if they are to effectively support your students.

There may be the option of students arranging one-to-one appointments with a central advisor. Again, it is important to clarify the terms of reference and explain to your students what they can expect.

Another possibility, noted earlier, is to also engage higher year students as mentors. This provides an additional layer of support to students and the relative informality may encourage those students reluctant to use a central service to at least receive support from a peer. If the mentor themselves has experience of the central service, this may also help break down any barriers amongst more reluctant students.