Teaching Assistants

The Birmingham Project team recruits a number of Teaching Assistants to provide support to first year undergraduates in the lead up to and during the two-week research project. Teaching Assistants primarily work on supporting the development of the students' ideas, as well as supervising and facilitating one group of students to undertake their project activities.

Read about how our Teaching Assistants supported their students and why they got involved in the Project:

Mai Khanh Tran (Mika), PhD Marketing

(2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 Teaching Assistant)

Teaching Assistant of the Year 2016-17

Mika picture

How did you support your challenge group?

I transformed my interest in ARTs into an “Artist-Researcher-Teacher” approach to assist my challenge groups. By offering different forms of Arts including images and music during the project, I encouraged the students to think creatively and critically and enjoy the research process. Whilst I could be quite strict as a “quality filter and controller”, I always ensured that my group found the whole process exciting. They should feel confident that they earned it themselves.

I also drew my attention to the uniqueness of each team in each year. The combination of various personalities, backgrounds, disciplines, and cultures would require me to address slightly, or extremely, different teaching methods and techniques. 

What was the most rewarding part of carrying out this role?

Contributing to the students’ development was the biggest gift I could ask for. I learnt that teenage years and the early 20s is an ideal time for learning and obtaining cultural advantages, as well as advancing creative skills. Therefore, I feel so grateful to be part of the students’ journeys of growing mind-set and manner.

Additionally, the success of The Birmingham Project is built upon the great collaboration and effort of the organising team, the supporting teams, the academics, and the external partners. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with the best people in helping students to gain distinctive educational experience. I am so proud to be part of The Project and to be recognised by The Project. 

What skills and/or experience have you gained from carrying out this role?

I am fascinated by the creativity and the talent of “screenagers”. The teenagers born in the age of digitalisation and multi-screens are interesting. Assisting them in learning new knowledge and skills also helps me train and gain myself significantly.

Working in an inter-disciplinary and trans disciplinary environment is a valuable experience. It can be very challenging to push boundaries when working with people from different backgrounds and expertise. Furthermore, good communication might not always mean “well spoken” if it came to the quest of exchanging tacit knowledge that could not be expressed easily through words. 

Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about applying for the Teaching Assistant role?

I would suggest the 4Es: Energy, Expertise, Encouragement and Embracement.

Give your best Energy to fuel your team. Bring your Expertise and professional manner on board as your students will learn from what you do, unconsciously or intentionally. Encourage them to welcome unconventional thoughts and learn to harmonise the counterpoints. Embrace yourself, your strength, and diversity.

I also wish to stress that The Birmingham Project is a well-established research scheme. So, if you are into research, the Project can offer you valuable research ideas, data, and connection.

Developed by renowned academics and experts in the fields, the themes and challenges in the Project suggest many trend research themes such as social issues, community engagement, and University-Industry collaboration, all of which are very publishable.

My PhD thesis was developed from the data collected when I worked in The Birmingham Project (with full consent) and parts of my research have now been published in a book chapter, a journal paper, not to mention a number of conference proceedings and talks. If you are looking for opportunities in the industry, you can establish your network with well-known companies and get more informed of their on-going projects, such as Silicon Canal by IBM.

All in all, opportunities are right here. You just need to give yourself a chance. 

Jorge Ravagli Cardona, PhD Theology and Religion

(2015-16 and 2016-17 Teaching Assistant)

How did you support your challenge group?

Encouraging the students was perhaps the most important part of my role. Prompting them to be ingenious, to risk possibilities and to share them with others was a key element to bolster their creativity.

Additionally, promoting some group focused activities proved useful as it improved communication and collaboration. Other research-related activities were also important in the role, like contributing with the discussion of ideas, providing orientation with regard to research resources and permanent feedback on the progress and the final presentation, and helping with the logistics of meetings and of other related events.

What was the most rewarding part of carrying out this role?

The most rewarding part was perhaps the level of connection established with the students, especially the chance of being able to realise and contribute to the fulfilment of their potential. The accompaniment provided to them during the whole process was highly gratifying in this sense.

Additionally, having the chance of knowing the challenges faced by key actors in the local and global economy was also very motivating not only for me but for everyone.

What skills and experience have you gained from carrying out this role?

I have definitely improved my communication and teaching skills, along with the capabilities for fostering innovation and insightful thinking. Abilities related to research were also improved, especially those related to problem solving and team-working. But perhaps most importantly, I have learned a lot from the imaginative and productive skills of a new generation of students. Witnessing and contributing to their intellectual development was very interesting for me.

Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about applying for the Teaching Assistant role?

My advice for anyone who is considering applying for this position is to overcome any hesitation and engage with this inspiring experience.

Having the chance of performing as a Teaching Assistant in the Birmingham Project would surely live up to the expectations. If you are interested in improving your guiding, fostering and teaching skills, if you want to experience the immense potential of the new tides of students, and if you want to meet new, committed and original people teaming up for ground-breaking work, sign up to this. You won’t be disappointed.

Indria Wahyuni, PhD Law

(2016-17, 2017-18 Teaching Assistant)
Indria Wahyuni_photo1

How did you support your challenge group?

I supported them in two ways; firstly, a requirement of my role was to liaise with the Birmingham Project Implementation team to provide my students with support relating to equipment hire and budgeting. Secondly, I followed group discussions and provided constructive feedback.

I also provided a daily report on the student activities and sent it to the implementation team and the Challenge lead. 

What was the most rewarding part of carrying out this role?

It was a challenging and amazing experience. I saw how students could develop their skills and unlock their inner abilities beyond their academic skillset. They were driven to think out of the box to solve their Challenge.

It was an awesome experience to be a witness to the journey of how the students explored and developed themselves in the two weeks duration of this project. I saw their flammable spirit as they tackled the challenge with limited resource, as the number of group members reduced during the project period. Though it was a difficult moment, they managed to overcome it and came up with their amazing work.

What skills and experience have you gained from carrying out this role?

I learnt that everything is possible as long as we have the willingness and spirit to make it real. Every challenge is a stepping-stone for us to empower ourselves to be a better and qualified person. Be positive!!!

I will take this experience and share it with my colleagues in the Airlangga University, Indonesia, and hope that we can perform similar concept to our students there.

Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about applying for the Teaching Assistant role?

  • Enjoy and be prepared to see how the students transform themselves and enhance their skills.
  • Time commitment and provide full support for the student during the project period.
  • Exploring your knowledge and familiarising yourself with the challenge topic will be very useful to give constructive feedback for the students.

Rajiv Ranjan Singh, PhD Computer Science

(2016-17, 2017-18 Teaching Assistant)

Rajiv_Profile

How did you support your challenge group?

The challenge group was tasked with the challenge of reviving the high street with technology. I focused mainly on two aspects: research and innovation. In research, I motivated the group to consider primary as well as secondary data to identify issues hindering the footfall on high streets. They were then expected to come up with innovative technological solutions to support the consumers. Since the project runs on a tight schedule, I supported them in finalising sub-tasks to be allotted to members based on their expertise and interest. 

What was the most rewarding part of carrying out this role?

I have never worked with so many of people outside my domain at the same time, be it the students or the challenge lead. It was indeed satisfying, rewarding and learning experience.

The Teaching Assistant role provided me with insight into the team building process and handling interpersonal issues while working with a heterogeneous group. Another rewarding part was getting that sense of elation with the group completing all their tasks within the allotted timeline and presenting their work to the applause of the audience. It indeed was a feeling of satisfaction coupled with sense of achievement working with motivated bunch of talented young people.

What skills and experience have you gained from carrying out this role?

I would put time management skills on top as we were working against time to not only conceptualise a solution, but also implement and present them within the allotted two weeks. This indeed requires a kind of superhuman effort.

Other than that, I would surely rate myself with better interpersonal and team management skills.

Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about applying for the Teaching Assistant role?

Anyone considering this Teaching Assistant role must be ready to work in an unchartered territory and able to withstand a pressure of running against time. An encouraging team leader blessed with motivating and organisational skills would be most suited for the role.

One final piece of advice would be to not treat the project as an exam. In fact, enjoying it as a collective learning experience for everyone must be encouraged, which is both the beauty and essence of this whole project.

And finally, never underestimate the talent of young people and always expect the unexpected.