Congratulations to Aoife Horan, Economics Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, for winning the UCL Provost Education Award. Read on to learn more about Aoife and her role in the past year.
I’m from Ireland and received my BA in Economics from Trinity College Dublin in 2017. After this, I worked as a Management Consultant with Accenture Ireland for two years, specialising in business transformation and change management for Public Sector clients. In 2019, I started the MSc in Economics at UCL, graduating in 2020. My research interests are in the areas of macroeconomic policy and inequality.
What did you enjoy the most about your role in ECON0002?
Getting to meet some really fantastic people in the Department of Economics, both colleagues and students! My time in UCL during my MSc degree was cut short due to the pandemic, and so getting the chance to work with so many incredible economists and students in the Department of Economics was such a joy. Particularly, I was endlessly impressed by how committed and driven so many of the first year students were. From thinking through applications of the theory, to applying themselves to extracurriculars, the students were really engaged – a feat even more impressive considering the move to online learning. Seeing the passion for economics throughout the Department was a great aspect of this role.
Further information on ECON0002.
What were the most challenging aspects about your role in ECON0002?
With the move to blending learning this year, the thing I found most difficult in ensuring our work was successful was not being able to communicate with students in person. As a TA, teaching to often blank screens was really challenging and made it difficult to know if the students were engaging with the work or if they were having any issues. This was definitely not helped whenever I had technical issues of my own – I almost broke a few Microsoft Teams calls trying to organise breakout rooms in the beginning! For students, having their university experience so drastically changed and replaced with online learning, often conducted from family homes, must have been so difficult and I was so impressed with how much all the students achieved, despite the challenges they faced. It’s a testament to how hard both the students and staff worked this year to make this year a success.
What have you learned from your experience of the past year and what aspects will stick with you moving forward?
This last year has shown me how resilient we all can be when faced with change and challenges. Throughout the year, both students and staff had to adapt on the fly as the health situation changed and make the most of the situation we found ourselves in. While this was definitely difficult at times, it showed how flexible and adaptable people can be in challenging situations and I think this is a useful skill to have, regardless of the career path you follow.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I’m so honoured to have gotten the UCL Provost Education Award and very grateful to everyone I worked with in the Department of Economics. When my post-MSc plans to travel were stopped by the pandemic, I was unsure what I would do after moving back home to Ireland. Getting to work on ECON0002 was such a joy during this time and so knowing that my contribution made things a little bit easier for the ECON0002 team during this year that was so difficult personally and professionally is wonderful and makes this award really special.
What do you think is key to being a good PGTA?
Listening to the students! When you’re teaching, it can be hard to transport yourself back to what it first felt like to be introduced to economics and all the new concepts – it takes a while for your brain to wrap around it all! The best way to make sure that you’re teaching at a pace and in a manner that is working for the students is by talking to them and getting their feedback. Having teaching plans and trying various methods of teaching are really useful but you also need to engage directly with the students to ensure the approach you’re following is successful for them.
A big thank you to the ECON0002 Teaching Team, both lecturers and TAs! They’ve all worked incredibly hard this year to make sure that the first year students still had a great introduction to Economics at UCL, despite all the changes. They did an amazing job and I’m thrilled to have gotten the chance to work with them!