Sessional staff

I continue to share brief lessons from the modules in Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching, a free massive open online course (MOOC) designed for new teachers, those who wish to enhance student learning or teaching practice and emerging leaders in higher education. The MOOC is currently open for enrolment. Sign up at and use the following join code: 64BHPE.

Sessional staff is Module 7. It is part of the ‘New to teaching’ pathway through the course.

Developed by Marina Harvey (Macquarie University) this module is designed to support the professional development of sessional teaching staff in higher education. Sessional staff are any teachers in higher education employed on a casual, short-term contract, adjunct, contingent, zero-hours contract or sessional basis.

Sessional or casual staff provide the majority of teaching across universities and private higher education providers.

(In Australia, data on casual staff is reported as full-time equivalent of all university staff so exact numbers are difficult to ascertain).

Image source: BLASST  under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

The module offers straightforward advice: make sure you understand the conditions of your employment. The exercises and checklists guide you through identifying your immediate network of professional support, reading the industrial award or enterprise agreement under which you have been employed and identifying your responsibilities to students and to your supervisor.

Whether or not you are a sessional staff member, consider your responses to the following prompts:

  • I actively engage in formal and/or informal professional development in learning and teaching.
  • I receive on-going formal and informal feedback from the Unit Convenor, peers and students.
  • I critically reflect (with myself and/or with others) on students’ learning, my teaching and my professional development as a teacher.
  • I am aware of opportunities in my institution/department to gain recognition and reward for my contribution to quality teaching and learning.

If you are a sessional staff member, investigate options that enable you to respond positively to these prompts. If you are teaching with sessional staff, share resources (including Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching) and advocate to support their professional development as teachers.

Image source: Photo  by Jason Goodman  on Unsplash

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