In this post, I wanted to share with you some work I’ve done with the Brilliant Club, a charity that puts PhD students into schools.

The Brilliant club will teach you to adapt your research to be appropriate for school-age pupils

In schools, I teach about climate change – raher than just my research project on air pollution. Climate change is broader and therefore more likely to attract different pupils. The challenge was to establish the key idea of my research project on which the course would then be based. This idea was that citizens are both a source and a victim of air pollution and that positive action should arise from that premise. Therefore, the course is about how humans contribute to climate change across sectors (e.g. energy, transportation, fashion, food) and at the same time understanding how climate change affects us (e.g. flooding, greater inequality, food shortage). But more importantly, a key aspect of the course is to translate this into action and pupils have to come up with a solution that could be implemented in their communities. Pupils can choose the sector they want to focus on, as well as define their communities as they see fit (e.g. city, neighbourhood, school). The fact that they can write about different sectors, communities, and solutions makes it more fun but more difficult to mark.

Seeing how pupils change their minds about what they are capable of is really inspiring.

One of the pupils told me: “I’m now much more confident than I was. I really want to go to university and I want to work hard because now I know I can. Also, I now understand how me and my family are contributing to climate change in so many different ways and I really want to change the way I do things”. This comment meant everything to me.

Working with The Brilliant Club fits around you and your availability

Designing the teaching materials and marking assignments take up a bit of time, so you should make sure that you free some time at the start and at the end. Delivering the tutorials itself is very manageable, especially when you have done it a few times and you are more confident and have extra materials and activities that you can bring in. And again, you only commit for short periods of time so you could decide to take a break when you feel the PhD needs a little more attention.  

The Brilliant Club is great for your  career development

Having to simplify your research really makes you think about what it is that you are doing. Similarly, the sort of questions and comments pupils will come up with will also make you think about your research in a different way. I also think it helps with your communication and presentation skills. And of course, many research positions require teaching experience so I’m also gaining expertise in this regard.

Anything that takes you out of you comfort zone helps you develop as a person and as a professional. So on top of the skills that I’m developing and will be able to use in my career (e.g. teaching and communication), I also think helping pupils realize their full potential and encouraging them to think about university as a future option is very enriching at a personal level.

If you look at future employment opportunities: postdocs, lectureships, etc. most often they require teaching experience, so do get involved! The Brilliant Club is a great way of getting involved with teaching for multiple reasons:

  1. You are in charge of the whole process and get experience in designing the course, delivering it, as well as assessing progress.
  2. You commit for short periods of time so it is easy to combine with PhD work – if you are too busy you can skip teaching one semester.
  3. You get to know many other tutors that are in you same situation and you can exchange experiences about teaching itself, time management, and even meet for a beer or two!  

Get involved

If you’re a research student wanting to gain experience in teaching, applying to work with The Brilliant Club could be a great way to start. Their scheme gives you the opportunity to increase the impact of your research by getting it out into schools, in a way that fits flexibly around your availability with paid teaching sessions. They’ll teach you how to turn your research into a lesson plan and how to deliver it too – so that you can go on to teach bright students in underprivileged areas all about your research. Applications open at various points in the year, and it’s a competitive programme to get into but highly rewarding!

For Manchester Met PGRs, you can book on to the next information session from The Brilliant Club on SkillsForge, or go directly to their website to find out when applications are next open.

To contact Maria about her research, email

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