The University Process


This week has been very busy compared to last week!

Monday was a full day of lectures and workshops. In the first workshop we were discussing the pros and cons of the Curriculum for Excellence which was a very interesting debate with a lot of pros and cons being discussed that I’d never thought of. There did seem to be a lot of people of the opinion that the vagueness of it is a hindrance to teachers but the intentions of the curriculum are good. I’m not sure why the idea came in to my head but something struck me during the debate and it has been gnawing at me since Monday. It may be a controversial idea so I’m happy for anyone who reads this (if I’m lucky enough to have anyone read this) to disagree and express their opinions on this idea.

I don’t think you can learn to be a teacher from lectures. 

Before I go in to this in depth I want to first say that the university I attend gives us access to world class facilities. All the lecturers are qualified as primary teachers and make their lecturers as interesting as possible. I couldn’t possibly fault any one individual involved in the university programme but…

I think training to be a teacher should be an apprenticeship. The main reason I have for believing this is that I feel you learn more on your placements than in any lecture hall. Ask any of the student teachers and they will tell you the same. Could these lectures be put on Youtube, TES (Times Educational Supplement), TED (The ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ video website) or a specialist website for Teaching Apprentices? What if ‘teaching apprentices’, where suitable, played the role of classroom assistants? Or if they wanted to, could a classroom assistant after a certain number of years, become a teacher?

As a teaching apprentice, one could engage in planning with their ‘master’ (fully qualified and experienced teacher) and increasing periods of whole class responsibilities (having built up from working with small groups and progressing from there). They could attend workshops with other apprentices run by specialists to learn more about topics such as – behaviour management, lesson planning, effective learning strategies, specific content knowledge and many more areas of importance. These workshops could also be used to assess how each apprentice is progressing – monthly/term essays? Aptitude tests? Competency based interviews?

Could all the lecturers, who are so clearly talented and passionate be those specialists or masters to teach the apprentices? I think these people are a loss to the teaching profession if they do not get to teach children. Why not get teaching apprentices to learn from the masters on site? A carpenter can’t realistically learn to make a chair by reading it from a book, or attending a lecture on it. A student doctor can only learn so much about performing surgery from reading or listening about it. Even something like learning to play the piano – you can listen to Chopsticks all day, or watch someone play it but until you play it yourself, you don’t know it.

Half of our PGDE year is dedicated to placements. The other half is dedicated to lectures/workshops. Then we are given our own class to deal with. I’m not whinging. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do this. However, I question whether this is the most effective way to prepare people for the inevitable stresses, strains, challenges and loss of confidence in ourselves that we will face from next year? It’s something that we all have to deal with and anything I say here is obviously not going to effect anything this year (or any year perhaps) but I do feel quite passionate about being prepared and being the best I possibly can be.

Sorry about that, I needed to vent my spleen on that.

Back to the week that was.

Tuesday we had Art and Design which I thought was good fun. It’s weird because you never really notice but why do we tend to lose our creativity as adults? I’d forgotten what it was like to do anything remotely artistic. My effort could be considered an insult to art but here it is – warts and all. Image

I picked a boat because I love all things related to exploration. I love reading stories about searching for treasure, lost civilisations or ancient cities. James Rollins is an author who uses that quite a bit in his books and I love all of his books! The Uncharted games on the PS3 focus on places like El Dorado, Shambala and the lost city of Ubar. I love that stuff. Education is nothing if not exploration!

On Wednesday, in our Literacy and English workshop, we looked at the difference between an open and closed questioning style. It really illustrated the benefits of asking questions that require more thought than “Yes sir; No sir; I don’t know sir”. You can’t tell a child what they have to know; you need to let them engage with the topic, relate to it, research it and give them the chance to discuss and debate it. It’s no use for a teacher to stand at the top of the classroom and read out a powerpoint or a pages and pages of a book. (That’s one of my reasons for being against lectures!)

Today we were looking at religion and maths. For religion we learned a lot about, what the lecturer referred to as, Indian religions. He discussed Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. I thought these were very intriguing faiths and the history and beliefs around them were fascinating. We never really looked at them at all throughout my primary education and I feel like that is a total shame. In the maths workshop, we were looking at tools and techniques to assist with learning for maths topics which was interesting. We got to engage with these tools and techniques, rather than just hear about them.

My university week this week, finishes today. I’ve watched the final episode of Breaking Bad – wow. I have my own theory about the ending which I have not yet heard anyone mention but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I won’t mention that here. I’m also up to date with Homeland and I am looking forward to the return of The Walking Dead aswell, which I’m reliably informed is in two weeks.

I would absolutely love if people would let me know if they agree or disagree with my teaching apprentices idea. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of it and won’t be the last either. I have done a bit of research on it and there seems to be some sort of apprenticeship scheme for classroom assistants but not for teaching itself.

Any-who, I’m going to boil the kettle, have a cup of tea and maybe do some reading. I’m between two at the minute –  I’ve started the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey and I’m on to the next book of the Sigma series from Rollins called Bloodline. Which one to read – decisions, decisions.

I’ll sign off the same way most Irish people end a phone call –

“Bye, bye-bye-bye, bye bye, bye”.


7 thoughts on “The University Process

  1. I totally agree with your apprentices idea Paul. In England there is a model similar to this. Schools direct is a new scheme, however you have to have had your Undergrad degree for 3 years or more (so it’s for oldies like me) But this puts you alongside a more qualified teacher in a school for the first year of your teacher training, there are even some paid positions for in-demand subjects at high school level. Teach for America also does it in the US. There’s nothing that’s going to prepare you more than being in the deep end and learning as you go. Sounds like you’re doing great! Love the boat, sure now you have your Christmas presents sorted!

    • Thanks for reading this Siobhan! Ya, I think it should be the only way to learn. I feel as though you can spend 10 years in lectures and you won’t have any real experience or tried and tested tools to deal with the challenges that you’ll have. The way it’s being done is failing to prepare people for what it’s going to be like in a classroom by yourself! Hope everyone is keeping well!

  2. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » The University Process

    • I think I understand what you mean by quoting that back and with review, that small section does not come across as I intended. I’ve edited the post as a result. What I was trying to get across is that firstly, I feel lucky to get the opportunity to become a teacher. The second point is that the university I am in does everything possible to assist us to develop but the point of my overall argument is that this lecture-workshop-placement-lecture route in to teaching is flawed in my opinion.

  3. Completely agree Paul. Especially with your comparison between student teachers attending lectures and pupils having information given to them without the need for exploration. In both cases I think there needs to be hands on, practical activities that can motivate them to learn, in our case, I’m referring to school placement or teaching practice.

    I’m one week in to my second year in Pats and already I feel that the large scale lectures we have are useless. At this stage of be very tempted to skip them all until Christmas before cramming lecture notes and slides from the internet before the tests. In comparison to this, a number of lectures are given to our class of 30. In these, we are constantly challenged and given activities to do. They’re far more engaging and in my opinion, far more effective.

    Finally, in relation to SP, you’re lucky to have half the year out in school. We have a 3 week block in March, while the rest of the year is spent in lectures, completing assignments and preparing for exams.

    I certainly feel that some things could be done better with some aspects improved, however it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me and I’m delighted to be back in Dublin again.

    I’m enjoying your articles Paul so I thought it was time I gave you a bit of feedback! Hope all is well, looking forward to your next entry.

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks a lot Keith, glad you’re enjoying them!
      Completely empathise about the lectures. They are no use. Workshops are fantastic. Workshops or small lectures that you engage with the topic is a similar set up to how you are told to run your classroom! I think that if you spent more time working as a teaching apprentice, assisting the class teacher at every opportunity and maybe one day a week for workshops would maximise learning time and make highly capable teachers.
      All is well Keith, stopped looking at my shoes this week after the AIF and have a Scottish county final in Gaelic football to look forward to in the next few weeks!
      Hope everyone is good at home, tell them I was asking for them.

  4. Pingback: Brief – A Reflection | spellingitoutblog

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