Teaching at LSE


Instruction at LSE is primarily through a series of lectures complemented by small group classes or seminars... the classes are designed to provide a hands-on, in-depth look at the material covered in the lecture in a small group led by you, the GTA.

This section introduces you to:

  • Who your students are

  • The education system and structure at the LSE

  • Your role and responsibilities as a GTA

Class teaching is an integral part of the structure of teaching and learning in the School, and is performed by a mixture of faculty as well as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and guest teachers. GTAs (and, to a lesser extent, guest teachers) are usually doctoral students who, in addition to running classes, hold office hours as well as mark student work and provide feedback on it. In many courses, especially the larger ones,

GTAs are the front line and often tend to be the first academic point of contact for students. Most GTAs find interacting with students and witnessing that lightbulb moment to be a gratifying and fulfilling experience. The School values the contribution of GTAs and invests in their development through providing training, observations, consultations, resources and awards. Information on these offerings, as well as advice advice and guidance on teaching, are collected in this portal.

Putting students here

Not only is this a campaign being run across the School, it’s also how we try to approach education at the LSE and is a good starting point from which to think about your role as a teacher in higher education (HE). Let's take a look at the students you will be teaching.  In 2017 the student population at LSE looked like this:

Students LSE 2019

Source: http://www.lse.ac.uk/about-lse/lse-at-a-glance

As you can see, LSE has a highly international student body, something in which it takes great pride. For many students and alumni, this global dynamic has contributed uniquely to their overall student experience at the School. While this is exciting, it also presents challenges in terms of teaching students from different learning traditions and education systems. Heterogeneity in the student population manifests itself in other ways too. Students in your class could:

  • Be in different years (eg. years 2 and 3) 

  • Be from different departments/disciplines (eg.. IR, economics, social policy, management)

  • Have different academic backgrounds (eg.. strong quantitative skills, strong writing skills)

  • Have different motivations and priorities (eg.. Postgraduate studies/academic career, job in the corporate sector)

While this can seem daunting, the development opportunities, support and resources provided by the LSE Eden Centre and the School and your department will help you see how this can be turned into a positive in class.

Studying at LSE

To understand how we can create a satisfying and productive student experience, we briefly summarise how things are set up at LSE.

The school year comprises three terms:

  • Michaelmas (MT) – 11 weeks
  • Lent (LT) – 11 weeks
  • Summer (ST) – 7 weeks.

Undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are divided into courses - full-unit courses run over two terms and half-unit courses run over one term. The main examination period is the Summer Term, generally occurring over May and June. This information and more details about the course you're teaching on can be found in the School calendar and your respective departmental undergraduate handbook.

Instruction at LSE is primarily through a series of lectures complemented by small group  classes or seminars. The lecture is most often given by the course convenor(s) and introduces the topic and lays out the general theories, frameworks, methodologies, etc.. The classes are designed to provide a hands-on, in-depth look at the material covered in the lecture in a small group led by you, the GTA.

In addition to teaching classes and seminars, GTAs at the LSE mark formative assessments and provide feedback and hold office hours once a week. You are also responsible for recording students’ attendance in classes and writing termly progress reports for each student in LSE for You, an online system that holds students’ personal (and academic) information.

The teaching context at LSE

Timetabled teaching events

At LSE most full unit courses are timetabled for 20-22 teaching weeks and half unit courses for 10-11 teaching weeks. Both undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses typically comprise both lectures and classes (or seminars).

  • Lectures are typically given by full-time academic staff, with most, though not all, courses typically have between 90 minutes and two hours worth of lectures a week.
  • Classes/seminars are often run by GTAs rather than the course lecturer (particularly on courses with large cohorts).  These are usually held once a week, though some courses may only have bi-weekly classes.  While many classes are timetabled for one hour, more and more courses now implement 90 minute and even two hour sessions.

All teaching events are expected to start five minutes past the timetabled start time, and end five minutes before the timetabled end time, to allow students and staff time to change over to another room for their next session.  For example, a class timetabled from 10 to 11 should start promptly at 10:05 and end at 10:55, thus lasting 50 minutes. 

Timing is therefore an important element in teaching!

Cohort sizes

At LSE, GTA-led classes can vary in both duration and maximum permissible size.

  • Most ‘one hour classes’ should have a maximum of 15-18 students, although some departments have established exemptions (particularly for courses with large numbers of students) to this.
  • Computer lab-based classes are usually larger in size, reflecting the maximum capacity of the room (typically up to 30 students).
  • Longer classes can have up to twice this maximum.
  • Computer lab-based classes are constrained by the size of the rooms, with most classes having up to 30 students.

You should find out what the norm is for your course; if you find yourself with more than this, do raise this with the course convenor and/or departmental tutor.

Office hours

If you are teaching on undergraduate courses, you may also be required to offer a further weekly or fortnightly hour of support for students on these courses. 

These are called office hours, and further guidance on how to run these can be found here.

School policies and procedures

Depending on which course you are teaching, please read the Code of Good Practice – Undergraduate or Code of Good Practice – Taught Masters to get a better understanding of your role and responsibilities as a GTA and what you can expect from those around you – students, programme director, academic mentor (previously referred to as academic mentor) and others.

The School has produced good practice guidelines for various aspects of teaching at the LSE, and you should take the time to familiarise yourself with those relevant to your teaching.

The department(s) you will teach for may have also produced additional guidelines which you should incorporate into your teaching practice.

LSE has introduced a new Academic Code that sets out what we are doing to deliver a consistent student experience across the School and clarifies what students can expect from their LSE education.  For example, this code explicitly sets out when students can expect feedback on formative and summative assessments in their teaching as well as the level of contact they have with their teachers.  More information can be found on the LSE Academic Code page.

The School is committed to the highest possible ethical standards.  The Ethics Code is a vital School document which provides support for us all when dealing with any ethical issues which we might face. All staff are expected to complete the Ethics at LSE online module to learn more about the School’s Ethics Code.  You can access the training on Moodle or through https://elearning.lse.ac.uk/ethics.  We hope this module will encourage everyone at LSE to have conversations about ethics and to feel confident in raising and dealing with ethical issues.  If you have any queries please contact ethics@lse.ac.uk  

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on the School to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities to pre-empt any substantial disadvantage in employment, study or the provision of services. For further or specific advice please consult with the Disability and Wellbeing Service, which is here for staff as well as students.

In fact, the School goes beyond the statutory requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and takes a “beyond compliance” approach by integrating equality and diversity into its core values through the adoption of the LSE Ethics Code. The School expects all its staff and students to proactively consider and embed equity, diversity and inclusion in everyday behaviour and practices with respect for the knowledge and experience of others.

Comprehensive details on School policies and procedures can be found on the Policies and Procedures page.

Teaching checklist

Once you’ve been appointed as a GTA, ensure you:

-Have received and a signed formal contract from the School’s HR division, and returned a signed copy along with proof of eligibility to work in the UK.

-Have met with or have a meeting scheduled with the course convener/course manager of the course you are teaching on and take your job description along

-Have read and familiarised yourself with the course details as listed on the LSE Calendar

-Have registered for the GTA induction and other GTA development activities offered by your department or the School

Revision questions

  • Students are required to attend classes, but not lectures. True/ False
  • Feedback on formative assessment should be provided to students within two/three/four weeks. True/False
  • Lectures at the LSE start on the hour, but classes start at five past the hour. True/ False
  • Have you located the summative assessment criteria for the course you are teaching on? Yes/No (if yes, where did you find it?)

Comprehensive details on School policies and procedures can be found on the Policies and Procedures page.