PGCEi Module 2: Understanding Learning and Teaching in International Contexts

Module 2 of the PGCEi (though Nottingham) is in two parts.

Part A starts with framing unit. It introduces various theories of learning such as behaviourism, cognitive constructivism, and social constructivism. Unit 2 then delves deeper into learning theories/approaches with a social focus, exploring dialogic talk, oracy, scaffolding and contingent teaching, and the spiral curriculum. ZPD is only mentioned about 8 billion times during Unit 2.

These first two units are compulsory. There a two more optional units, one of which covers the likes of Skinner and Piaget in more detail, and the other explores neuroscience, pseudoscience and educational fads. Latter one was more interesting IMO.

Part B explores pedagogical approaches. The framing unit covers planning principles, grouping, differentiation and the knowledge needed for teaching. That compulsory unit is followed by about 10 optional ones. You only need to complete two of these, but the choices are interesting so you’ll probably delve into more than that. They include: Inquiry-based learning, EAL, creativity, questioning, enhancing learning with tech, and more. Most are fairly short so if you plan your time effectively you could get through them all. Just. If you wanted to…

Assessment

As with Module 1 (see review here) you complete some process work, summarising what you’ve learnt and how it relates to your practice. This time I rambled about how annoying some academic articles can be, when experts seem to have an agenda and don’t bother to actually observe how things play out in the classroom. I also got uppity about Vygotsky’s inadequate explanations for certain learning processes. I concluded by reflecting that sometimes I don’t like academic research because it makes me obsess over pointless things that have little impact on my learners.

For the 4000-word assignment we had to critique a pedagogical approach used in our context, making sure this was framed within the broader theories covered throughout the module. That was a fun assignment. I chose to look at project-based learning, which was supposedly the approach that underpinned the new Secondary in-house product at my school. I read some interesting stuff on PjBL (see some of it here), concluding that what we were doing really wasn’t much like project-based learning at all. That was mildly annoying and interesting at the same time. I wanted to be cynical and suggest it was all a marketing ploy, but that was all a bit contrived. They encourage a critical lens on the course, not a slanderous one. Besides, reading 40 or so references on project-based learning hardly makes me the expert does it!

Overall

This is a comprehensive module. The reading is time-consuming – if you start late then it will certainly seem overwhelming. On the whole, the content is very interesting and there’s lots of choice, helping you to keep things relevant to your context. The Part A framing unit is biased towards those theories with a social focus. I’d have liked the neuroscience bit to be compulsory, although I’d have taken that unit either way so no biggie. The assignment is very flexible – there were four or five topics I’d have loved to explore further. Sometimes choice is a bad thing!

For those in an October cohort, this module falls at a fairly busy time. With this in mind, have realistic expectations and be kind to yourself 😊

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