Posts filed under ‘PGDE’

I think I need some Critical Skills

My tutor brought an interesting leaflet for me when she came to assess me on my placement (I passed – yay!). It’s about the Critical Skills Programme. It sounds so exciting, covering so much that I want to improve, but don’t know how to improve, in my own practice. My tutor went on the programme and highly recommended it, but explained it’s relatively expensive, so in these straightened times, it’s difficult for HT’s to accommodate. However, just thought I would store it here, as a thought for the future…


November 16, 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Poor neglected blog

Much has happened since my last post (tsk tsk).

  • Practice and reflection has made me feel much more confident in group work now.
  • I had my first placement: two weeks in a nursery, which was part of a primary school. This was really inspiring and a rich opportunity for learning and personal development. I would have blogged about it all at the time, but my computer broke down and was in for repair for three long weeks. My reflective notes were therefore all handwritten – how quaint 😉 The school had an impressively strong and positive ethos and whole-school positive behaviour strategy, strong leadership and lots of support for staff and students. Consequently, it was a happy school community and an ideal start to my placement experiences.
  • Back in uni, lots of good stuff about lesson planning, Assessment is for Learning, behaviour, child development, different curricular areas, equality and inclusion, classroom organisation and management, questioning, thinking skills…

I’m going to try to pick up some of these in subsequent posts. Meantime, I found this interesting pdf article entitled Get Persian on the Change This blog, which I think fits in somewhere, but I’m not sure where. The article describes how businesses can avoid making mistakes by using techniques like devil’s advocacy before taking major decisions. I wonder if there’s scope to introduce children to some of these ideas in connection with problem solving, debating or group work? (Not sure I’d use the terminology, and certainly wouldn’t advocate the Persian’s approach, but the ideas are interesting.)

October 27, 2008 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Assertiveness in groups

I realise my posts so far about my PGDE course haven’t been very reflective, nor have they contained much original thought. I’ve been trying to capture the great teaching tips provided by various lecturers, partly because I think they will be of interest to others, but mainly because I think this is the best way for me to store and find them again. I hope that’s not an inappropriate use of a blog, but anyway I’m switching to looking inside today…

We’ve been doing a lot of group work, with plenty more to come. Working so intensely with people who are still strangers (more or less) has made me realise I find group work quite difficult – something I’ve been dimly aware of but hadn’t confronted before. It’s an awkward realisation for someone who’s always counted “communication skills” as a strength. I’ve been wondering what’s going on, and I think it might be something to do with assertiveness, confidence and conflict.

I find conflict difficult (including minor disagreements that most people wouldn’t call conflict). I have to make a conscious effort to continue to listen well and make good contributions when there are differences of opinion in a group, and I don’t always succeed. This is when my role in the discussion is to be “me”. It doesn’t happen in work situations with service users/customers/children/young people. I get a cloak of confidence from having a clear role and professional responsibilities. So, I don’t think this will be an issue in the classroom with children, but it is an issue for working with adult colleagues.

On reflection, I have communication skills in the sense that I can listen well to others and express myself clearly in a variety of ways, but I’m wondering if I lack assertiveness (or not, or maybe, possibly, ummm, what would would I know anyway 😉 I think I’m capable of it, but it’s an effort, it’s much harder with new people, and it falls to pieces in debates/disagreements with peers. I pledge to explore and address this during this course. Tips are very welcome.

September 3, 2008 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

The 5-14 curriculum is heavy

Day one of the PGDE… We had a nice welcome from various members of staff, and I feel the course has really started, with my University Card in my purse and the first task (peer teaching) already set.

The main thing I wanted to note down from the day are these games for helping people bond as a group…

[1] A carousel-style introductions game

Tell everyone to find a partner. Ask them to arrange themselves into an inner and an outer circle – partners should face each other, one in the inner circle, the other in the outer circle. Tell the partners to introduce themselves to each other by saying, “Hello, I’m [name] and I like [interest]” (model this). Once introduced, everyone should move one place anti-clockwise, meeting the next person in the opposite circle. They must introduce themselves as before, and also tell their new partner the name and interest of their last partner. This carries on until they reach their partner again.

Notes: It’s quite noisy! And it’s surprisingly difficult to remember each new person’s name and interest when trying to tell the next person about the last one. But it’s easier to introduce yourself to just one person at a time, not the whole group. You could use this game to emphasise communication skills: manners, the importance of listening to each other… It’s good for helping a group to bond, and making people feel more able to talk to each other.

[2] Find all the people who like the same…

Tell everyone they must “Get into a group with all the other people who like the same [colour, drink, animal, sport…] as you”.

You can see how they got on by asking each group to tell the whole group their preference in turn – there shouldn’t be two groups with the same preference.

Notes: This is fairly easy and helps people find out what they have in common. It can build confidence in talking to new people in the group, although it is possible for participants to avoid this by simply going along with the preference of the group they are already in.

[3] Line up in order of…

Ask the group to “Line up across the room in order of [something, eg birthday dates, age…]”. You can find out how they got on by asking each person in the line to say their answer in turn.

Notes: This also helps people find things in common, and it’s easier to make sure everyone participates. Everyone has a place on the line – no-one is isolated. It could be more difficult to find suitable topics, as you need something where there will be differences between participants along a spectrum, but it has to be information participants are comfortable revealing to the group.

The other lasting impression of the day is the weight of the printed 5-14 curriculum. We each got a copy, and I had to walk home, pushing my bicycle as it was too big and heavy to go in my bag – maybe I’m going to need to get panniers for this course. Will the Curriculum for Excellence be lighter 😉

August 25, 2008 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

Brush up your blog, and your maths – course starts Monday

Well, it’s over two weeks since I finished work, and in six days time I’ll be a student again. I was hoping this break would allow me to start the course with a clear head, but I seem to have failed to either completely relax or be particularly effective in this time (paperwork all over the place and pre-course reading started but nowhere near finished).

I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching maths and sciences. I increasingly regret my ambivalence to these subjects at school, and have been wondering how I can ensure children in my class get the best opportunities in these areas. I don’t want to pass on my insecurities; I want to pass on the admiration I discovered post-school. I want every child in my class to feel they can get something from maths and sciences (even if they find it hard) and to help every child take their learning as far as they can. I feel the same about the other things they’re learning too – it’s just I’m more concerned about my ability in these areas. I’ll be down the front of all the maths lectures from next week, determined and all ears!

I’ve also been thinking about how to hang onto what I’ve learned from being outside education looking in. That’s at least one another post by itself though.

Maybe it’s no wonder my head’s a bit of a jumble. Exciting though…

August 19, 2008 at 6:19 pm Leave a comment

PGDE interview preparation – what I want to say

Group discussion – 3 topics

[1] “Think of an example of a good teacher you have known. What are the qualities he/she displayed?”This is based on more than one good teacher…

  • Respect for all pupils and parents.
  • Evident enjoyment of working with young people.
  • Belief in the value of education and learning for all.
  • Energy.
  • Humour.
  • Slight eccentricity!
  • A storyteller – good stories told with passion and without notes.
  • Authority.
  • Confidence.
  • High expectations of pupils.
  • Active and positive approach to solving problems and to their own learning and development.
  • Commitment to evidence based practice, but with a good amount of flexibility and creativity.
  • Dedicated and caring, but not consumed by the job to the detriment of their health.

[2] How inclusive are Scottish schools?
These are the points I want to make…

All schools are expected to support children with a variety of support needs. Some schools foster belief that all pupils are part of community, all can learn & develop, all have right to be there. These are the inclusive schools. Others will have pupils who need support, but without the ethos, they are not inclusive. Can come down to the leadership in the school. Some schools are doing what others would say is impossible.

Glaitness School example
Mainstream and special primary schools merged – now a mainstream school that includes pupils with range of support needs including pupils with complex/multiple disabilities. The ethos is that anyone can need extra help at some point, as a result all pupils feel comfortable asking for help and there is no stigma attached to learning support.

Being there is not enough
Many schools have been physically improved to make them more accessible to disabled pupils. But accessibility strategies are about more than physical adaptations to the building. Pupils can be present in school but not feel included.

Inclusion Squad example
A primary school pupil in South Ayrshire who is a wheelchair user asked his teacher if he could do something about missing out on PE – she encouraged him, he identified a group of pupils who wanted to help and they worked together to make sure he got alternative sports to play. He got what he wanted, which was to be “treated like any other person”. This group’s role evolved to helping anyone in the school who was feeling left out. The members of the Squad said it helped each of them in lots of ways, and they noticed that lots of other people in the school were happier too. They’re now in secondary and it’s harder because they’re all in different classes, but they really want to carry on.

Inclusion doesn’t have to mean full-time mainstream school
All children have a right to a school education that meets their needs and gives them opportunities to develop their potential. This may not mean full-time mainstream schooling. Many children get flexible timetables in school with part-time spent in a support base. Others have split placements between two schools, or school and college. Some special and mainstream schools have made connections with each other so they can use both resources, widen social opportunities for pupils etc.

    [3] What are the differences and similarities between the role of a parent and that of a teacher?

    • Teachers have professional duties and a code of conduct. Parents have parental rights and responsibilities. Some of these are to support each other. For example, parents should follow school rules and teachers should involve parents in children’s education. However, they are independent – a teacher must carry out their professional duties whether or not parent is fulfilling their responsibilities.
    • Teachers must be concerned with the education of all the children in their class/the school. Parents need only be concerned with the education of their own children. Teachers need to recognise this difference when they are working with parents. For example, it doesn’t answer a parent’s concerns to say, ‘other children need more help than your child’.
    • Children do better when their parents and teachers work together.
    • Power balance. Each can think the other has more power. Parents can ‘say what they think’ unrestricted by policy and procedures. But many parents feel teachers/headteachers have all the power: the authority associated with the profession; the backing of union, employer and colleagues; control over a child’s opportunities, support and general experience of school; the power to exclude… Many parents are intimidated by the school building and the teaching profession, perhaps because of their own school experiences. However, any parent can find dealing with issues at the school very difficult, because for teachers, it’s professional, but for parents, it’s personal.

    Interview – key messages

    Qualities I bring…

    • Commitment and passion.
    • Experience working with young people, teachers and assistants.
    • Professional attitude – SLT course taught professionalism, reflective approach to own practice (eg keeping learning log), commitment to active ongoing learning and development.
    • Skills
      • verbal and written communication skills, including ICT literacy
      • organisation, planning and prioritising
      • developing and delivering creative workshops for children and young people
      • providing advice and guidance
      • working independently and as part of a team
      • problem solving.
    • Knowledge
      • child development
      • human communication (development and difficulties)
      • Scottish education system, particularly the system for providing additional support
      • issues and challenges for pupils, parents and school staff
      • sources of information and support for children, parents and school staff.

    Why I want to be a primary teacher

    • Sense of vocation – I enjoyed Speech Therapy course and am glad I did it, but didn’t have the passion for it that I feel for education. I know the impact education can have, and particularly the importance of early education experiences.
    • Excited about developments in Scottish education, particularly Curriculum for Excellence literacy experiences and outcomes, Assessment is for Learning (talking partners, feedback style, personal learning planning), inclusion, active learning and rich tasks.
    • Love my current job, but want to expand knowledge and skills. Primary teaching is extension and development of what I enjoy – working with children, mix of planning and delivery, own responsibilities and team work, busy, varied, creative. Want to work with children on longer term basis rather than one-off visits/short projects. Want to work across the curriculum.

    Top experiences to mention

    1. Story project – working with a group of young people with significant communication difficulties to develop a character and story. All done through images as all young people in group have difficulties understanding language and three of five communicate almost entirely non-verbally.
    2. Conference (young peoples events) – including working with school and education authority staff, finding and booking venues, providing information for teachers, assistants and young people, planning and delivering activities, filming and editing, presenting results at conference for professionals and parents.
    3. Observing talking partners – I watched primary school children really enjoying short discussions with talking partners, reflecting on their experiences.
    4. Blogging – experience of setting up blog and working with young people on it, also great to talk to P5’s who were so enthusiastic about their joint blog with a school in Finland. General benefits of Scotedublogs – great for information and ideas, lots of educators and pupils getting and giving encouragement.
    5. Theatre and festival experiences – box office, front of house and production roles required and fostered organisation skills, customer service, problem solving, being able to work independently and co-ordinate work with rest of team, and enjoyment of busy and fast-changing environment.

    Other examples to slot in if relevant

    Importance of high expectations – young person who said when she was taken into care teachers stopped pushing her as hard as other students because they felt sorry for her. She thought people were no longer bothered about how she did in her education, so she stopped trying.

    Curriculum for Excellence for everyone – one young person’s definition of a confident individual: “someone who is as independent as they physically and mentally can be”.

    February 24, 2008 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

    PGDE course providers

    The Graduate Teacher Training Registy lists 3 universities that provide a PGDE – Professional Graduate Diploma in Education – for primary teaching in Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.


    This is the Edinburgh online prospectus and the primary PGDE course information.


    This is the Glasgow online prospectus and the primary PGDE course information.


    This is the Dundee online prospectus and the primary PGDE course information.

    October 6, 2007 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

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