I have been a lab demonstrator and MSc project mentor for almost one year now and I can still clearly remember my very first demonstration. I remember the undergraduate students looking to me to help solve their problems. I remember the great thirst for knowledge in their eyes. And I remember recognising my younger self in their hopeful gaze.
As I reach my one year demonstration anniversary, and I look ahead to another year as a mentor, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my tips on how to be a (good) PhD demonstrator…
As a demonstrator, we have usually got sufficient background knowledge. But you can never know too much more before the class. Don’t forget to undertake the necessary training also (this is the EPS course, but each Faculty has an equivalent).
Guide Don’t Just Give
Don’t just give students the answers they need. Show them how to find the answers themselves.
Be Open to Learning
You won’t know every answer. Be prepared to sit and work with your students. Some problems may take weeks to solve. In this way, helping others is also a way of improving yourself. You can learn together.
And above all…
See it Their Way
Remember what stage of their programme the students are at and what courses they have or haven’t yet completed. Remember yourself at that particular stage and express the ideas to your students in a way that you would have understood.
Treat them as you would your younger self.