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Blog: Reflection on a LITE Fellowship


Written by Chiara La Sala (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies)

Reflection on a LITE Fellowship

In 2020-21, I was awarded a Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) fellowship. My aim was to understand the contribution of Postgraduate Research Students to the pedagogic practice at the University of Leeds.

My Fellowship

The project draws from my experience of Director of Italian at LCS. In this role I had the opportunity to work with PGRs TAs and mentor them in their teaching. I soon realised that they were a fantastic resource for both staff and UGs. Student feedback in the modules’ surveys highlighted the PGRs’ positive contribution to teaching. Staff feedback on their experience of teaching with PGRs in their modules was very positive too. Therefore, I decided to investigate what experienced academic staff can learn from PGRs with teaching roles and responsibilities.

How did I do it:

The project had a research phase, a data collection phase and a data analysis phase. In the research phase, a literature review was carried out on:

  • effective and innovative teaching
  • research methods in education
  • class observation

In the data collection phase, extensive data were gathered through cross-university focus groups, electronic surveys and teaching observation of both PGRs and academic staff. The role of the UG students focus group was to gain a better understanding of how UG students value their learning experience at Leeds, how PGRs contribute to the enhancements of academic teaching practice. Focus groups with PGRs served the purpose of gaining a better understanding of their teaching experience at Leeds University and of how they feel supported in their teaching practice. Focus groups with academic staff aimed to gain a better understanding of their experience of working with PGRs and if/how teaching delivered by PGRs can enhance academic teaching practice. Following the focus groups, online surveys were distributed to the three different groups. Finally, teaching observation of staff and PGRs was carried out. Qualitative and quantitative data from surveys and teaching observation were analysed.

Key findings:

  • PGR TAs are a great asset for Leeds University and can influence and improve pedagogic practices.
  • Staff, PGRs and undergraduate students can all benefit from the engagement of Postgraduate Research Students in Teaching.
  • A transparent approach to recruitment, consistent training, oversight and structured support for PGR TAs are needed to ensure the quality of teaching and of UG experiences across the university.


In July 2021, as part of the Leeds Doctorate Festival, we held a Day Conference ‘PGR Teaching Experiences: What we can learn from them. The conference was structured in three parts:

The special issue of the Postgraduate Pedagogies ‘Exploring GTAs' perspectives on teaching during the pandemic’ is a more recent outcome deriving from my fellowship. Hear the voices of the PGRs who contributed to issue.

My LITE Fellowship findings led to recommendations and guidance for teaching observations as a developmental tool, influencing updates to the 'Code of Practice for PGRs who teach'. The impact of my work is reflected in the increase in the numbers of PGRs who are engaging in initial training before they teach, offered by OD&PL.