PGCEi

MA, PGCEi or Diploma?

Question from a reader:

I’m after some advice. I can’t decide which professional development course to do. I have a CELTA plus five years’ teaching experience and I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a DELTA or Dip. Then again, I’ve heard that for university jobs like teaching pre-sessional courses it’s good to have an MA. But recently I’ve heard people mention the PGCEi as a future-proofing qualification and I’m like… aargh! Which course should I do?

My comments:

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Should I do a PGCEi?

I’m currently doing a PGCEi through the University of Nottingham. The course is specifically designed for international educators with a focus on improving professional practice. It is an 11-month course which is mostly distance learning, although there is a short face-to-face component.

The course seems popular with teachers who are working at ‘lower-tier’ international schools and who do not hold a teaching certificate from their country of origin. It also seems popular with EFL teachers hoping to transition to international school teaching. However, that’s just a snapshot – my cohort on the course is extremely varied and includes edtech business owners, state-school teachers in Thailand, educational materials writers, and unknown bloggers (*waves*).

Here’s a Q+A style chat I had with a friend on the pros and cons of taking this course. For context, we are based in Thailand, and I currently teach at an international school. (more…)

My new normal

Talk about a weird situation.

I started a new teaching job on April 1st. I haven’t met my students face-to-face (well, you know, apart from virtually). I haven’t met my colleagues face-to-face either. I haven’t set foot in my new school yet as an employee… and it’s 500 metres from my house! I should be in my new routine as an early-riser right now, but I’m not needed online until 8am. Just… all a bit strange really.

I changed jobs because I wanted a challenge. Well, in three weeks (there was a two-week holiday) I’ve had to learn the basics for Google Classroom, Seesaw, Google Meets, Teams and Firefly among others. I’ve had to learn about Read Write Inc, Bug Club, Oxford Owl, and upskill by using Google Drive/Docs/Slides as standard (makes me realise how archaic the practices were at my last school tbh).

‘Guided reading’ as well. That was kinda new in my current format. Inquiry-based learning. Project-based learning (a purer form to the sort I’ve encountered). SPaG. WIDA. Bloody hell… *head explodes*

Meanwhile, I’m sharing a classroom space (i.e. one room of the house :/) with my wife, a fellow international school teacher who is somehow managing to do a lot of the above while dealing with foundation stage learners. Brutal. My breaks are then spent with my 18-month-old trying to ignore/correct his humorous use of the word ‘dick’, which appears to be his version of a Thai word (sounds like ‘dtit’) meaning stuck. In case you’re interested, he doesn’t have much space to manoeuvre his trike between the carpet and the table.

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?! This was supposed to be a fresh start *IN* a new school.

Well, it is. It’s real. You know what? I’m enjoying it! It’s such a bizarre situation but it’s awesome. Everyday I wake up and I’m like ‘right, what can I do today to support my learners?’ Building a rapport with them isn’t easy, but then it always has its challenges. I get to learn more about my learners now than I think I ever will. I get to hear the support they are getting from their parents (in the background of calls), and I get to see them following their interests (like reading a comic when I’m trying to talk about grammar!). I get to teach them while they are much more at ease (‘at home’ in fact). That’s not always the case in a formal learning environment. They’re really good, I mean, the ease with which they have adapted to online learning actually puts me at ease! And they’ve still never even met me. I mean, kudos to them, seriously.

Meeting new colleagues is probably weirder than meeting the students to be honest. I don’t want to be that guy who asks lots of (pointless) questions, because that involves lots of emails or messages when people are bombarded with them anyway. Thankfully, everyone I have contacted has been great. And the online thing is a blessing in disguise to be honest. I mean, anyone who’s met me in person knows it’s only a matter of time before I have to mask my nervousness and insecurity with pun diarrohea (Urgh, seems I’m a crap speller…).

Right, jokes aside and all that. My wife said to me the other day ‘you know, I haven’t heard you complain about this job yet, you seem… happy’. And I am. There’s a reason. After five years of teaching learners for two hours per week, I think I’d stopped understanding what learning is. Well, what progress is anyway. In three weeks of actual teaching so far (and seeing the students every day), I’ve had a tear in my eye twice already just witnessing my learners develop. I know that sounds a bit naff but I’m serious. I’ve left online calls with some of my students thinking ‘what just happened? Did they just… OMG they totally absorbed something I said in passing last week and they used that language freely in conversation and OMG they just spoke in a full sentence and…’. Blah blah.

The best thing is, I know I’m working with at least one colleague who gets that feeling too. They’ve told me. I feel like its finally okay to care and be invested in what I do. That might be my new-normal (can we hyphenate that yet?).

Hey, early days. Barely a month in. I just get that feeling though… I could be in the right job.

Useful links: Project-based learning

I’ve been reading a bit about project-based learning (PjBL) recently. I had to write a critique of an approach used in my context as part of the PGCEi. Our Secondary course now follows a PjBL approach*, so I thought it was worth trying to understand the approach in more detail and evaluating whether it’s effective. Here’s some useful reading on PjBL in general.

Larmer et al (2015) seems to be a go-to resource for PjBL, and set out some clear design principles for the approach:

Check out their ‘Gold-standard PBL’ white paper for an overview.

Thomas (2000), shares a great overview on the difference between ‘doing a project’ and ‘project-based learning’. They stress that in PjBL…

  • projects are central to the curriculum rather than peripheral
  • driving questions or problems guide the learning
  • projects are student-driven and realistic (authentic)
  • projects involved constructive, sustained investigation

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Dialogue in ELT

I received some really interesting responses to my post on good working conditions in ELT – thanks for all the comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

One of the many comments that are worth exploring in a bit more depth was a tweet from paulw. He asked me three questions:

  • What is it that enables me as a white European person to have “good working conditions in ELT” in Thailand?
  • Is it the case that Thai people can expect such conditions if they go to the UK? (Answer: No.)
  • How many Thai ELT teachers do you have?

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Tweaking my young learner teaching

I start my PGCEi next month. I’m really looking forward to having an extra reason to reflect on my classroom practice, overall approach, etc, and delving into research about how children learn and develop.

I’m focusing on primary level learners during the course. I have experience teaching ‘upper’ primary age groups (aged 9-11), but I’d love to learn more about teaching younger primary learners. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone teaching younger learners during the CELTA YL extension course a few years ago. With this in mind, the PGCEi is a perfect opportunity to gain more experience and understanding of YL teaching and child development. (more…)