Enhancing academic currency by the ‘Visiting Lecturer’ programme
Most lecturers in 3rd level educational institutions realise that they need to maintain academic and professional currency; they need to research and refresh if they are to be properly relevant to students and to make their jobs fulfilling. How can we stay abreast of our subjects and deliver lectures that engage the interest and participation of our student audience? Take a subject like ‘Building Management’; since I joined the staff of Bolton Street many years ago, I have been grappling with how to make my ‘Management’ lectures interesting and useful, and so ensure a ‘captive’ audience in the classroom!
From the start I was aware that building management – and construction generally – was greatly influenced by developments in technology. But up until the 1980s, when many building contractors still directly employed most of their workforce, building sites seemed to be flooded with operatives. Specialisation started in earnest then and developments in construction technology – especially in plant and equipment – accelerated at a pace never experienced before.
This pace of development during the past two decades has made it difficult for Management lecturers to keep up with changes in construction technology and management practice. Management was not really judged to be a discipline or an academic subject then, but now, like the established disciplines, it has become increasingly necessary for Building Management lecturers to specialise and to focus on branches of construction technology, management and administration.
In common with other civil engineers of my vintage, my professional and teaching strengths stemmed more from experience of management-in-practice in the construction industry than from my academic studies. Whilst I undertook a ‘taught’ Master’s degree in engineering soon after completing my primary degree, I was not properly conversant with quantitative ‘research methods’ or focused literature reviews.
My contact with the construction industry and the professions was to become important in keeping up-to-date with practice. When I first started to invite ‘visiting lecturers’ into my classes more than 25 years ago, I did not know then how significant these ‘visitors’ were to become in my own as well as my students’ professional and academic development.