All entries for May 2019
May 28, 2019
I joined Myton this year with the same trepidation that I imagine many Year 7s did – an anxiety about what was to come, but with a great deal of excitement about it too. I joined the drama department at Myton for the first placement of my PGCE and, as with all new endeavours, there was a lot to learn, and a lot to learn quickly.
Myton was an easy school to settle in to – the staff are friendly and welcoming, and the students, for the most part, are well-behaved and engaged, and the drama department especially has wonderfully kind teachers and interested, curious children. Having settled in comfortably (and having only gotten lost twice), I found myself teaching full lessons within a few weeks, and this represented an issue that faces all new teachers: how do I make my lessons exciting, interesting, and engaging, while still teaching my students everything they need to learn?
Perhaps this is easier with drama than it is with other subjects (Bowell and Heap, 2013) – it is active by nature, and practical assessments often inspire less fear than written. The challenge with drama is in how to ensure that learning does take place, and that lessons have purpose, and are not just ‘fun’. I have been teaching for over a month now, and this is still something I am struggling with. Teachers go into teaching to try and make a difference to students’ lives (Schoenfeld, 2009), and I am no different. Because of this, we don’t just want our students to respect us – we want them to like us. As a teacher who is new to the school, who cannot name each pupil on sight, I feel this very keenly – I feel like, to prove myself, to become a part of the community, I must be liked.
It is easy to do this by playing games every lesson, but does that earn respect, and does that ensure teaching? I have seen many teachers at Myton tread this line with such precision; they are both liked and respected, and their lessons are both fun and educational, and to eventually reach this equilibrium is something that I look forward to greatly.
Embedded in all this is behaviour management, and while this is necessary for any and all teachers, it is very daunting for trainees. In discussions with PGCE students based at other schools, it seems that students at Myton, on the whole, are comparatively very well behaved, which I suspect is due in no small part to Myton’s clear and regularly implemented behavioural policies. There’s a lot of positive to take from Myton’s approach to misbehaviour – UPR, ‘Reprimand in Private, Praise in Public’, the subtle taking of a pocket diary as a warning that doesn’t generate a lot of attention – from an outside perspective, these seem to create a school that is respectful and considerate, and it credits a school when poor behaviour is seen as the anomaly. That said, seeing these practices take place in someone else’s classroom, and using them yourself, are two very different things, and while I am grateful not to have had to implement any of the more extreme sanctions so far, I am nervous that my inexperience with them will show, or that, in the moment, I will choose the wrong path. No one goes through life without making mistakes, of course, and if there is an opportunity to try things out, and to make mistakes, it is surely now, when there is considerable support there to help in these situations.
Our university has provided for us a ‘behaviour toolkit’, but without opportunity to put these tools into practice, how these will work with different situations, different students, and different schools, is something that can only be discovered through experience – the innate ability for the teachers that I have observed, to know which course of action is the most appropriate in any one situation, is enviable, and something I aspire to. It seems that this feeling of inability to know what to do when confronted with a situation that requires behaviour management is not uncommon, and is not new.
In 1993, Merrett and Wheldall suggested that behaviour management was not a priority for establishments that train teachers, and while much has changed in the last 25 years, it certainly feels like there’s an element of ‘behaviour management being the school’s domain’ currently. Learning techniques that are so specific to one school, however, makes it tricky to jump right into another school, running the risk of implementing the wrong technique at the wrong time in a new setting; if I have learnt anything so far at Myton, it is that consistency through BfL is key (Rowe, 2006).
I am grateful that I was placed at Myton, not only for the relatively short commute, but for the sense of community here, the constant support, and the feeling that my contributions to both teaching and the school as a whole have been valued and appreciated. I have already overcome many hurdles, lost some battles, and am ready and eager to face more.
Pamela Bowell & Simon Heap (2013) Planning Process Drama (Oxon: Routledge)
Frank Merrett & Kevin Wheldall (1993) ‘How Do Teachers Learn to Manage Classroom Behaviour? A study of teachers’ opinions about their initial training with special reference to classroom behaviour management’, Educational Studies, 19:1, 91-106
Don Rowe (2006) ‘Taking responsibility: school behaviour policies in England, moral development and implications for citizenship education’, Journal of Moral Education, 35:4, 519-531
Alan H. Schoenfeld (2009) ‘Why Do We Teach?’, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 46:1, 26-29
May 20, 2019
After a year and a half of planning and preparation, it was wonderful to finally meet our April 2019 Postgraduate Certificate in Education international (PGCEi) cohort in Bangkok (see above photo). With the PGCEi programme now fully operational in Asia, I wanted to reflect on the first five day face-to-face induction in Bangkok, to help identify areas for potential development going forward. The reflections below draw on PGCEi team debriefs as well as trainee feedback from the induction review.
Ensuring we connect theory with practice
Throughout the planning, a key tenet of the PGCEi programme has been to keep material as lean, sharp and relevant as possible, tying themes to assessments throughout all modules and marrying theory with practice. Overall, this is something that as a PGCEi team we thought went well. As one trainee commented:
‘What I learnt in the course so far I have witnessed this being applied by my colleagues in the school I'm working at. Linking the theory to the application of teaching’.
One piece of trainee feedback from the induction review centred on having more ‘in class’ activities. Going forward we can perhaps look to create more opportunities for trainees to further engage with practice by teaching small activities in the induction, without relying on a show-and-tell approach. Show-and-tell teaching by teacher educators cannot help prospective teachers to think in more complex ways about their practice (Myers, 2002).
The induction programme
On reflection, the PGCEi team felt that the course overview and assessment session on day three could have been moved forward to day two in order to provide further clarity on the course as a whole. As one trainee commented:
‘Having programme information on the 'first day' of induction would make me feel more at ease with what lies ahead. The majority of us had many questions regarding the course but this was not addressed until day three’.
At the end of the induction programme we felt there was enough time built into the schedule for 1-to-1 questions and to revisit key themes on an individual basis. The feedback on the whole organisation and content of the induction programme was very positive. As one trainee stated:
‘The course was well laid out, well organized, and absolutely full of information. We've been given plenty of access to information about the course, the facilities and services available to us, as well as the tutors (teaching fellows). The sessions were all very relevant to teacher training, and they were engaging and informative’.
Accommodating a range of trainees with differing settings
We found that trainees were at very different stages of their teaching careers. Some were ‘in service’ teachers currently engaged in teaching full time, whilst some were ‘pre service’ teachers just coming into the profession. This variety of teaching experience necessitated flexibility of approach. Going forward we could look at providing options in regard to specific sessions. As one trainee reflected:
‘Provide choice for certain sessions, for example, primary having a phonics session while secondary going into behaviour in depth - have a choice for that for situations where a primary person may be well versed in phonics and may want to dwell deeper into behaviour’.
Perhaps as a PGCEi team, we need to further encourage ‘pre-service’ trainees coming into the programme to more fully reflect on their experiences from outside of the teaching profession in order to utilise skills sets and accelerate learning. ‘One frequently cited benefit of reflective teaching for example; is that students grow in their ability to think and talk critically about teaching and learning’ (Zeichner 1987:572).
Overall, as a PGCEi team, we feel privileged to have met such an engaging and supportive group of trainees and very much look forward to working with them throughout the course of the next year.
Zeichner, K.M., (1987) Preparing reflective teachers: An overview of instructional strategies which have been employed in preservice teacher education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
Myers, C.B., (2002) in Russel, T. and Loughran, J., (2007) Enacting a pedagogy of teacher education, Routledge, London.
May 13, 2019
Back in March 2019 I attended a WIHEA seminar given by Dr Celia Whitchurch, Associate Professor in HE at University College London’s Institute of Education. Celia’s research focussed on academic and professional identities in higher education.
Celia considered the changing roles and identities of academic and professional staff in higher education. She shared results from two studies funded by the UK Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, which involved administering interviews in HE institutions in Great Britain, America and Australia to staff who worked in less-well-defined roles.
It was interesting to note the different terminologies that are used to describe these individuals, with ‘third space professionals’ being the commonly accepted term within the UK. I have since undertaken my own literature review to investigate what other terms are being used within the sector (and there are lots of them, including: hybrid, multi-dimensional, intersectional, blended, unbounded, fluid, fragmentary or peripheral, to name but a few). There is also a variety of terminology in use for the ‘space’ that these individuals work within (or around in some cases). This is frequently referred to as ‘the third space’ but other terms in use include: transformational space; complex and differentiated space, borderland zone, plural environment or academic periphery.
Celia defined third space professionals as those ‘with identities drawn from both professional and academic domains’ and observed that third space professionals are often appointed on the basis of experience in broad academic areas such as student experience, curriculum design, technology enhanced learning or pedagogic research rather than in specific subject or research areas. The emphasis being on cross boundary (and this is a contested term) or cross disciplinary working. She added that these individuals are likely to have master’s level (or above) qualifications and are often active researchers contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning despite not necessarily having being employed on ‘traditional’ academic contracts.
She further added that these individuals also represent an increasingly diverse workforce characterised by career development within and outside of the HE sector. Partnership working and the crossing of boundaries between what are traditionally seen as academic and professional roles are common characteristics of third space professionals. Finally Celia considered the implications of all of these factors for both third space professionals and the HE institutions they work in.
At the event Gwen Van-der-Velden Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Learning Experience) and Academic Director of WIHEA announced that a new Third Space Learning Circle has been created. As I have been interested in this topic for many years I was really pleased to be awarded co-chair of this learning circle with Sue Parr, Business Development Director (PEP) in WMG.
Further information about WIHEA is available here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/academy
Here is a copy (she has delivered several of these sessions at different institutions) of Celia's presentation given at Sheffield University:
May 09, 2019
As a literature student, reading and researching theories has become second nature to me. However, when I began my PGCE I was sceptical- how beneficial can educational literature really be to me in such a practical vocation?
But I was proved wrong, from the very outset of the course. The reading I have undertaken during this academic year has provided me with many different ways to approach core elements of teaching practice, from behaviour management, to differentiation, to subject-specific pedagogy. This year, reading research has been critical to my subject (English), as a result of the reformation of the GCSE and A-Level specifications. Research is constantly evolving about how to approach these changes, and ways in which teachers can deliver information on the new texts that have been included in the specifications. The articles and journals that I have read always contain practical advice, which make it easy to adopt these ideas into my own practice. I have discovered this year that, as a trainee, I have been exposed to more research material than my colleagues at school have been. This means that I have been able to offer new approaches to teaching to my department, and they have been grateful for the information that I have provided. This has caused me to realise that there is no better way to keep my course material fresh and exciting for students than by researching, and ensuring that my teaching reflects current understanding.
Whenever I have encountered a problem in my teaching practice, I have turned to research to help to resolve those issues. Although teaching can at times seem like a solitary career, there is a huge network of support to be found in educational research and theory: whatever setback you are currently facing, the likelihood is a preceeding practitioner has experienced it before, and has documented the remedy for it! The wealth of knowledge you can find is reassuring, and although there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ technique to apply to the classroom, there will be several approaches you can take until you find one which works for you. During my first term, pace was an aspect of teaching which I struggled with, and my reading of educational theory provided me with techniques to try in order to improve this, such as the benefits of incorporating timers into lessons, and creating timed challenges for students, which simultaneously increases their engagement.
One key question that every practitioner needs to ask themselves during researching is: how will this theory benefit my teaching and, above all, the learning of my students? Placing research into action can be motivating for both teacher and learners who take enjoyment in adopting new strategies and refreshing the classroom environment. Reading research also encourages teachers to maintain self-reflectivity, as you must evaluate how well the theory worked in practice, how your students responded and above all, how it helped or hindered the progress that was made during your lesson. By immersing yourself in research throughout your teaching career, you remain a learner - and this allows teachers to relate to their students, maintaining understanding relationships. I hope that reading research will remain as beneficial to me throughout my teaching practice as it has been to me in this first year.