PGCEi Module 1: Educational Aims and Values

I’ve written a bit about why you should do a PGCEi but not much about the course content. So, here it goes…

The first module of the PGCEi (Nottingham) was on the aims and values of education in international contexts. The module covered some fairly broad topics like ‘the purpose of education, the nature of knowledge, the concept of a curriculum’ and so on.

The module was assessed based on process work and an essay. After you’ve done all the reading and module tasks, you write a 1000-word piece of process work outlining your own educational beliefs and values. Then you complete a 4000-word assignment in which you critique a model of schooling based on those values.

What was the module like?

This first module was awesome! The content was really interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve mentioned some of it already – including Bottery’s Educational Codes, Wilson’s summary of curriculum types and so on. The key reading was very well chosen. Not only was it relevant to international contexts, it was fairly accessible as far as academic literature goes.

When I first started the module I was a tad cynical: ‘Oh here we go, a load of academic posturing without much actually connected to classroom practice!’. On the contrary, we were encouraged throughout the module to relate the reading to our own context and to really examine and scrutinize our own educational beliefs. Reading about other educators’ experiences in the forum was insightful. In fact, I found the forum posts from my peers more useful than some of the reading as I could directly compare them to my own experiences.

Module reading

The top three articles I read on this module were probably…

  • Educational Philosophy (Biesta, 2015) – really useful and concise overview of the purpose of education.
  • Conversations on Critical Thinking (Sellars et al, 2018) – a great overview of how critical thinking is perceived in different contexts and implications for teaching such skills.
  • What is the Dialogical Method of teaching? (Shor and Freire, 1987) – a great chapter, key points of which I summarised here.

But there were plenty more great articles – Winter’s reading disruption of a textbook being the pick of the bunch, and the most interesting for those working in materials development.

The assignment

I enjoyed writing the 4000-word assignment, in which I critiqued the teaching of English at a for-profit language school in Thailand (where I worked at the time). I was pretty sure that the assignment would write itself and be fairly damning of the school and industry in the process. In fact, the opposite was true. My own educational beliefs were more aligned with the ethos of my school than I had anticipated, and (bizarrely) I found myself validating the commodification of English in some ways.

Feedback/support

Solid feedback from my tutor, no complaints. For the first assignment you get to submit a first draft – the comments helped me develop my views and there were some great suggestions for further reading. The process work is quite a personal piece and feedback on that was particularly supportive.

Tips

If you want to make the most of this module then I’d say…

  • really buy into the forum. It’s not just a tick-box exercise, you can gain a lot from other peoples’ views.
  • keep an open mind. Tutors encouraged us to view research through a critical lens. The bulk of the key reading was anti-neoliberal, education for social reconstruction, relativist, etc. That stuff is fine but it’s also a bit preaching to the choir at times. Predictable and convenient. I recommend playing devil’s advocate a bit to delve deeper.
  • read Kim (2019) during Module 1, especially if you are in an international school context. I regret reading it later in the course as it’s very relevant to the early modules.
  • Don’t panic about the process work, it’s more like a diary entry in response to the key reading. I loved that part.

Overall

Probably the best module I’ve done on any training course. Great content, lots of opportunities to reflect on my own practice/context, useful feedback… 4.85/5

5 comments

  1. “When I first started the module I was a tad cynical: ‘Oh here we go, a load of academic posturing without much actually connected to classroom practice!’.”

    Even though your expectations were subverted, this is a really interesting comment – one that certainly echoes with me and, I imagine, a great number of other practitioners in ELT of one sort or another.

    “My own educational beliefs were more aligned with the ethos of my school than I had anticipated, and (bizarrely) I found myself validating the commodification of English in some ways.”

    This I am especially intrigued by!

    Have you summarised what you wrote in the blog anywhere? I’d be very keen to read it if it’s available.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, cheers for comment as always 🙂

      No, not summarized it here as it’s actually pretty dull. I did start the essay with:
      ‘It would be ill-advised for a white, male, privileged, native English speaker like myself to attempt any validation of the TEFL industry.’
      Then I attempted to validate it in some way which, yeah, was ill-advised!
      In practice, the piece was more ‘a critique of those who critique’ TEFL rather than a validation of the industry. The damning of commercialization, commodification, edu for qualification and cultural capital etc when it comes to ELT often seems fair and valid. Especially when it means commercial interests are prioritized over, say, inclusive practices. But sometimes these critiques are a practice of the privileged which is self-promo/affirmation masquerading as good/just intentions.
      The crux of my argument in the essay was that there’s a lot of hypocrisy and that in many respects I just felt it better to be honest. That meant admitting that I’m not best placed to critique the industry or the language learning motives of others, or to teach my own language. What I can do is try with integrity and within constraints to meet the needs of my learners. Doing so for me involves less ego and obsession with the ‘bigger picture’ and nuanced arguments, and more involvement in the trivial stuff. You know, teaching… 😆

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, that doesn’t sound dull at all! (Don’t quite know what that might say about me, but …)

        “In practice, the piece was more ‘a critique of those who critique’ TEFL rather than a validation of the industry.”

        This is my angle, or what interested me in your post.

        All too often – and even David Block, who no one could accuse of being a friend to corporate concerns has acknowledged this – that neoliberalism is a ‘boo’ word meaning few need to dig deep into the arguments as to why it is a bad thing or needs to be criticised since the label itself does smart work as a shorthand for the whole thing(!)

        I think one of your recent book reviews said something to that effect (more or less).

        “‘It would be ill-advised for a white, male, privileged, native English speaker like myself to attempt any validation of the TEFL industry.’”

        Quite intrigued by the framing of this, too!

        Like

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