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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 24: Teach well

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Teaching well is not only a key measure of academic success. It is also one of the most emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences for many academics in their professional lives. Delivering a well-received lecture to a class of 300 first-year students can be truly uplifting. On the other hand, a flop in front of the same group can really ruin your day!

Teaching typically – though not necessarily – continues to involve presenting yourself and your ideas to large and small groups, week after week at specific times, irrespective of how good or prepared you feel.1 That commitment cannot be circumvented. And on the line every day are your personality and your expertise, the way you talk, the way you dress and the ways you stimulate thinking and communicate ideas. Under this deeply personal scrutiny, many academics give disproportionate attention to the quality of their teaching (or they give up entirely), failing to negotiate successfully the balance between teaching and research and other aspects of their lives. The longer-term timeframes and the depersonalized character of much research mean that it can be put off – sometimes. If you do not feel like working on a project today, maybe you can do it tomorrow. And you often have the opportunity to revise your scholarly writing after thoughtful, measured review. But teaching is immediate, personal and can involve instant, unsympathetic assessments of credibility. It can lead to anxiety and self-doubt. Distinguished political scientist and university teacher David Kahane reveals...

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