Skills Training, Teaching and Teaching Opportunities

Skills Strategy

Graduates of the Institute's doctoral training programme will:

  • have a range of strong, well-developed and up-to-date mathematical skills (such as analysis, abstraction, problem-solving, modelling, etc) and be able to use them professionally;
  • have the ability to apply these skills to a variety of problems, and a broad knowledge of where such applications are currently important;
  • be able to communicate mathematical ideas professionally at appropriate levels, and to interpret them to a wider constituency;
  • be committed to keeping these skills current throughout their careers, and have developed the tools to enable them to do so.

The Institute's Strategy for skills development is intended to provide opportunities for students to acquire these attributes, and has the following elements:

  • skills embedded in the academic programme wherever possible;
  • opportunities to develop the full range of skills scheduled in the Research Councils' Joint Statement on Skills available to all students;
  • an initial assessment of training needs, made collaboratively by the student and supervisor (the University will soon provide software to assist in this assessment);
  • student responsibility for regular re-appraisal of these needs, and for reporting on progress (the University will provide software to allow a student to keep personal records);
  • in the first year a focus on those skills particularly important for the student's research programme;
  • in the second year attendance at a UKGRAD school;
  • in the final year an emphasis on making a successful move to employment whether in academe, industry, or commerce;
  • collaboration with other departments and with the Careers Service in providing events on career opportunities and career building;
  • collaboration with other departments and with the CETL in providing training in teaching and related skills.

Transferable Skills

Broadly speaking "Transferable skills" are those which are not specific to the topic of the student's research, but might be useful in later life. Many such skills are developed within the normal course of doctoral study: for example time-management, and using information sources efficiently. Others can be acquired by attending special courses: foreign languages and first-aid.

Training in these skills forms a very important part of the personal development of graduate students. Those research students who are supported by the EPSRC are formally required to undertake 10 days transferable skills training per year, during their first three years. (This means in total, not 10 separate days!) The department expects ALL research students to do this.

Record Keeping

Each student must maintain a record of his or her skills training, showing the required number of hours, and this will be reviewed by the assessors when the student applies for transfer or confirmation of status. The University is developing software to allow a student to analyse and track progress in skills development. Students should bear in mind when recording their skills training, that a large amount of their day-to-day work is in fact training them in transferable skills. Thus, for example, their records should include an estimate of any time discussing the principles and practice of mathematical writing; or any time discussing the presentation of talks or classes; or any time involved in on-the-job learning of library and computer skills. First year students should not forget that all of their beginning-of-year induction, both in the department and elsewhere, is, in effect, transferable skills training.

UK GRAD Programme

All EPSRC supported students are required to attend a residential UK GRAD Programme Graduate School, ideally in their second year. This will count towards the two-week total for the year. To enrol on a course please see the Vitae webpage for details. When completed please send details of time and dates to the Graduate Studies Assistant.

Teaching

Many of the most important skills can be developed through teaching.

In recognition that many Oxford doctoral students hope to make a career researching and teaching in universities, the University was awarded funding (2005--2010) by Hefce for a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), with a focus on Preparation for Academic Practice. In conjunction with the CETL the Divisions and Departments have developed programmes to provide their graduate students who teach with induction, opportunities for mentored teaching, support, and further training sessions. The Institute was involved as one of the lead departments.

The Mathematical Institute strongly encourages graduate students to become involved in its class teaching. At the start of Michaelmas Term, the Department runs an initial training session in class teaching.  It then provides opportunities for graduates to act as teaching assistants (TAs) for the third and fourth year undergraduate classes. As a TA you will be working as a sort of apprentice to the class tutor, who will report briefly at  the end of the term on your progress.  Attendance at the initial training session together with two satisfactory reports on class teaching lead to a pass at Stage 1 of the available training. Stage 1 constitutes Preparation for Learning and Teaching (PLTO) in the University's terminology. For material from the last Mathematical Institute training seminars see Class Teaching Training Sessions.

Stage 2 is called Developing Learning and Teaching (DLT), and leads to associate membership of the Higher Education Academy, a useful addition to your cv.   If you wish to go on to Stage 2, which involves compiling a small teaching portfolio, please make contact with the Faculty Teaching Advisor through the Academic Administrator. You can also consult the MPLS webpage which includes the DLT handbook. In addition a reading course is run for those wishing to complete Stage 2.

For details of Stage 1 (PLTO) and Stage 2 (DLT) see the Oxford Learning Institute webpages http://www.learning.ox.ac.uk/support/teaching/programmes/, and the Learning About Teaching guide available here

Graduates who wish to teach in undergraduate classes should contact Jessica Sheard and complete the registration form.

Those who wish to pursue an academic career might like to consider the advice offered in the Notices of the AMS to jobseekers, as well as an analysis of the way teaching is evaluated by hiring committees. Although these are specifically about US practice, a lot of what is said is of value generally.

University and Divisional Skills Training

A range of courses are run by the MPLS Division and other parts of the University. See the Skills Portal and the MPLS skills page for more details.

Oxford University Library Services

Wiser Science

Doing a Systematic Literature Review

This session aims to define what is meant by a systematic review, with a couple of internationally-recognised examples from the field of health care. It should be of interest to all scientists as it introduces a methodology for selecting and comparing studies from different sources.
Presenters: Jo Hunter and Linda Atkinson.

WISER: Resources for Mathematics and Computing.

This session provides an overview of resources relevant to Mathematics and Computer Science research. It also includes hands on searching of MathSciNet (for mathematical reviews on a topic) and Computer Technology database, Oxford University e-journals platform, and setting up database e-mail alerts.
Presenters: Ljilja Ristic and Cathy Hunt

WISER webpage

http://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/workshops

In addition the Computing Service runs numerous other courses on all aspects of computer skills e.g. Viruses, Public Key Cryptography, Java, C Programming, Excel. Courses are free but advance booking is essential. Students with EPSRC support may reclaim the costs of any OUCS documentation from the department, by contacting Val Timms.

Careers Service

All aspects on career planning, CV writing, interview technique etc are excellent examples of transferable skills training. The careers service offers short courses in these, and details of careers events, as well as information about all types of specific career opportunities. See http://www.careers.ox.ac.uk/ for details.

Students should bear in mind when recording their skills training, that a large amount of their day-to-day work is in fact training them in transferable skills. Thus, for example, their records should include an estimate of any time discussing the principles and practise of mathematical writing; or any time discussing the presentation of talks or classes; or any time involved in on-the-job learning of library and computer skills. First year students should not forget that all of their beginning-of-year induction, both in the department and elsewhere, is, in effect, transferable skills training.

Business School

The Saïd Business School lays on a number of courses of interest, see http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/ideas-impact/entrepreneurship/programmes-events/open-and-extracurricular-programmes and in particular "Building a Business". Some of the courses are free, but for others there is a charge. Unfortunately the department does not have resources to cover such charges.

Oxford Learning Institute

Developing Academic Practice

These form part of the University's `stage 3' programme of seminars for academic staff. They are intended both for those in their initial period of appointment and for more experienced staff. Note that there has been a determined effort to provide separate sessions for those teaching in the science divisions.

Sign up via web page http://www.learning.ox.ac.uk/support/teaching/programmes/dap/ where descriptions of the seminars themselves are also available. Please note that all our lunchtime sessions which begin at 12.15 will have a working lunch available from noon onwards.

Questions and suggestions

Any student with questions about transferable skills training, or indeed with suggestions for items to be included on this webpage, should contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Prof Boris Zilber.