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  • Writer's pictureJosé-Carlos García-Rosell

Teaching, Research, and Everything In Between: Life as a Senior Lecturer

During my time as a Senior Lecturer of responsible tourism business at the University of Lapland, Finland, I encountered instances where individuals assumed "a clear understanding" of academic working life. On one occasion, during a casual conversation with a company's managing director about his summer plans, he envied academics, citing their seemingly abundant three-month vacation period. Another incident involved a student who emailed me expressing frustration with the three-week grading window allocated to university teachers. She could not understand why teachers needed that amount of time to assess the course assignments and provide the final grades. She might probably have thought that university teachers have nothing to do when they are not teaching. These instances underscore a common misconception that portrays academics solely as classroom figures who lounge on exotic beaches during holidays.


Being an academic extends beyond the confines of a typical full-time job, demanding a mastery of multitasking. As illustrated by Susan Wardell's chart below, the daily routine of academics at a university spans a diverse array of responsibilities, encompassing teaching, research, and various service-oriented tasks. The analogy of academic work to juggling captures the challenge, where one tries to keep multiple balls in motion without allowing any to drop. In this post, I discuss specific facets of these responsibilities, drawing from my experiences as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lapland.


Academic work
Academic Life

Juggling with teaching, research, and services


Teaching was a significant part of my job as a Senior Lecturer. Being responsible for several graduate courses required more than simply delivering lectures to students. It entailed careful planning of lessons, establishing evaluation criteria, updating teaching materials, crafting engaging learning environments (including online platforms such as Moodle, Miro, Teams, and Zoom, and rigorously assessing assignments, among other pedagogical tasks. Teaching extends beyond the dissemination of knowledge; it serves as a conduit to inspire students to acquire and develop further expertise, critical thinking, and professional skills. This dimension gains further relevance as students progress into their thesis research, becoming even more critical when taking responsibility for supervising their research projects. In my work as a senior lecturer, I mentored students at both master's and doctoral levels. In addition to these tasks, I assumed the role of leading an international master's degree program, which encompassed responsibilities such as curriculum development, mentoring, overseeing the application process, and more.


Juggling
Juggling

My life as a senior lecturer was a carefully orchestrated schedule where I had to allocate time for both teaching and research activities. Indeed, my job required meticulous planning of research projects, data collection and analysis, and the dissemination of research findings. Writing scholarly articles, reports, and other academic publications was an intrinsic part of my everyday activities. To be able to fund part of the research activities, I had to be actively involved in the development of research funding applications. This involves weaving convincing narratives and arguments that justify the significance and potential impact of proposed research projects. Securing project funding also entailed assuming either full or shared responsibility for its successful implementation.


While it may look like research would be a solitary effort, in truth, the research projects I was involved in thrived on the foundation of networking and collaboration, supported by academic initiatives such as conferences, seminars, and workshops. I found these events highly relevant as they created possibilities for engaging with peers, exchanging insights, and participating in collaborative endeavors that contribute to collective knowledge creation. At this point, it's essential to highlight the close relationship between research and teaching. In my teaching practices, I consistently prioritized the integration of research findings into the course content. This emphasis aimed to empower students, enabling them to gain new insights and actively contribute to the generation of new knowledge.


Beyond the traditional roles of teaching and research, my responsibilities as a senior lecturer extended to delivering tangible results with societal impact. It was not only expected that my work would contribute to academic debates but also it brings concrete benefits to different stakeholders. This was particularly relevant in research and development projects with counted with the participation of a non-academic audience. For instance, in a research and development project addressing animal welfare in tourism, our team successfully delivered results that played a significant role in fostering more ethical practices concerning the treatment of animals in the tourism industry. Similarly, another project focusing on the sharing economy in tourism contributed to the formulation of policies related to peer-to-peer accommodations, not only in Lapland but also across Finland as a whole. As a Senior Lecturer, I also served as a member of advisory boards and committees overseeing different types of projects, initiatives, and organizational practices. This dual commitment to academic rigor and societal relevance underscores the multifaceted impact that senior lecturers can have, actively shaping ethical standards and influencing policies to enhance the well-being of human beings, animals, and nature.


These are just glimpses into some of my past responsibilities and work experiences as a Senior Lecturer. Certain functions, such as daily administrative tasks, were not explicitly mentioned, despite they required a significant amount of time and careful attention. Additionally, when discussing senior lecturer positions, some lean toward a teaching-oriented focus while others toward a research-oriented focus. In my situation, I occupied a position where both teaching and research were equally emphasized. In essence, the life of a Senior Lecturer, as I've experienced it in a Finnish university, is akin to the skillful art of juggling. It involves deftly managing the rhythm of teaching, the tempo of research, and the cadence of services, creating a harmonious interplay that forms a holistic academic experience for both educators and students, all the while making a meaningful impact on society.

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