Edinburgh Friends

Empowering tutors

Alumni donations have been helping postgraduate history students become inspiring tutors to their undergraduate counterparts.

Students in library

Catriona Ellis was working on her PhD in childhood in late-colonial south India when she took on the role of part-time tutor to undergraduate students. Part of a programme that gives postgraduate students the chance to gain valuable teaching experience while simultaneously enhancing the effectiveness of the undergraduate learning experience with experienced tutoring, Catriona then came up with the idea of creating a website that would empower tutors like herself to become better teachers.

She applied for a Principal’s Teaching Award, a scheme funded by unrestricted donations to the University and run by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). The scheme awards financial support to activities that will make a significant contribution to the enhancement of learning and teaching at the University.

Receiving £1,000 from the scheme, Catriona set about designing a website that would have tangible benefit to tutors. She had discussions with fellow postgraduate tutors about the information they felt would benefit their teaching, and held consultations with a number of undergraduates who provided valuable insight into their learning experience in History, and who were able to nominate staff whom they believed offered an effective teaching service.

The resulting website reflects Catriona’s findings. Sections covering tutoring, lecturing, student engagement, assessment and feedback, and studying History at Edinburgh, combine to create a space where teaching is placed in the context of the wider undergraduate experience. Useful materials, resources – such as access to pastoral support guidance – and podcasts are available and tutors are encouraged to share tips and best practice ideas with each other.

“As tutors we all learn from the practical experience of teaching, of taking responsibility for facilitating the learning of others,” says Catriona. “But this new website also provides an honest approach for those starting out in tutoring through the real experiences of peers.

“The funding from donors has been so vital in achieving this. Supporting small, concise projects that have real impact on students is so crucial and can make a huge difference to a students’ learning.”

The funding from donors has been so vital... Supporting small, concise projects that have real impact on students is so crucial.

Catriona Ellis

What are unrestricted donations?

When you donate to the University without specifying a specific area to support, your unrestricted donation will be channeled into an area of greatest need. This means innovative projects such as Catriona’s are able to receive vital funding that otherwise might not have been available.

Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme

More information on the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme can be found on the IAD website.

Principal's Teaching Award Scheme