Edwin Adolfo Garavito-Muñoz is a student of the MSc in Teaching and Learning. He has previously completed two BA’s at De La Salle University in Colombia; one in Philosophy and Literature and on in Religious Education and completed his PGCE at the University of Oxford. He is also working as a teacher of Religious Education and Spanish, as well as being the Virtual Learning Environment Coordinator, at a School in North Oxfordshire.
What degree did you apply for and why was it important to you to study this?
I applied for the MSc in Teaching and Learning because of the new opportunities it offered, given its focus on research. During my PGCE studies at Oxford it was made clear to me that teachers are practitioner researchers that generate knowledge and opportunities on a continuous basis. I came to understand that a teaching profession without a drive for research could easily lose its sense of purpose. Teaching could as a result become a futile and sterile endeavour in which lacklustre practitioners lacked the curiosity, creativity, enthusiasm and charisma to inspire their students to greater things.
Please indicate what the total length of your course will be.
Having already completed the PGCE at the University of Oxford, the total length of my course will be 2 years.
Please give details of your professional commitments
I am currently working as a teacher of Religious Education (RE) and Spanish and as the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Coordinator at a School in North Oxfordshire. As part of my role I teach Key Stage 3 RE and Spanish, GCSE level RE and Ethics and Extended Project at A level, and I coordinate, and work to promote and facilitate the use of, the Virtual Learning Environment at the School.
What do you hope to go on to do once you’ve completed your postgraduate degree? What do you hope to achieve?
I have a number of ideas in mind. In the short term, I want to continue to my research into multiple aspects of education, mainly around learning issues, technology, ethics and philosophy. In the medium term, I should like to undertake PhD studies which I believe would allow me to advance my career prospects in the educational sector, including taking my first steps on the path to becoming a college or university lecturer.
What do you most value about the teaching at the department?
The teaching at the department is highly adaptable, and is not simply a static process in which the lecturers merely assess and evaluate the research undertaken by students. There is solid teaching and an emphasis on the rigour of research, but the lecturers always attempt to convey a sense of discovery. Research and the thirst for knowledge permeate the department, which continuously evolves as a result. This is evident in the way that students feel after lectures and tutorials. A metaphor might help to make this clear. In the opening paragraphs of The Waves by Virginia Woolf, ‘As the sun rises the pattern of the horizon changes, providing different shapes, until ultimately a clear and visible image becomes apparent’. Alternatively, it is rather like being in the middle of a cloud of mist: suddenly the mist lifts, and everything becomes clear, so that you create your own path. That is to say, you are able to find new answers to particular teaching questions that you are faced with.
Why do you think it’s important to study education?
To answer this question, I would like to refer to my teaching experience in my home country, Colombia, which sadly holds the record for the longest modern armed conflict. During my first years at university there, I was part of a religious order, which involved my working with disadvantaged communities. I remember working in very poor rural areas and having the opportunity to interact with ex-fighters from the various militias who were being re-socialised. After leaving the order in 2009, I also worked in very affluent schools. In all these contexts, I discovered that education can bring out the best or the worst in students and teachers. By this I mean that it can push students or teachers into a ‘deep slumber’ without having any impact on their world, or it can help to break down social and stereotypical barriers, encouraging students and people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds to understand how interconnected we all are, and why we have to care about ‘the other’, where ‘the other’ could include, inter alia, people on the other side of the planet, the homeless, the rich or the environment.
By this I mean that education, as the basis of human learning, can make a difference on multiple fronts. It can bring about change and a greater understanding of our deeply interconnected world. Consequently, it is important to study education in order to challenge stereotypical conceptions about society and about education itself.
What’s the community (student & staff) like at the department?
I really want to avoid the use of any clichés here. It has become the norm to say that staff are inspirational, friendly and motivational. This is particularly true when it comes to educational institutions. I would prefer to define the community as genuine. What I mean is that, as students with full-time jobs as teachers, we do not have all the time we would like to interact with everyone in the department. To claim otherwise would be disingenuous. However, the relationships with those lecturers that one encounters in ones process of discovery are honest and engender a sense of value. They go beyond the mere student-lecturer rapport to provide an honest exchange of valuable experiences that foster mutual growth. Lecturers definitely lead by example.
When it comes to ourselves as students, the multiple ways in which we interact, whether via Weblearn (Oxford’s Management Learning System), in the lecture room or other classrooms, as well as in those spaces provided by the College, mean that new friendships and links have been forged. This community of students extends beyond the department to become a support network for multiple issues relating to the teaching profession.
What’s your favourite thing about studying at the department?
I would say that Oxford has a certain je ne sais quoi that you will not find in other institutions. It is the particular magic of this University. I find it difficult to put into words. Oxford is a special place where you can thrive – I have never felt like a foreigner in Oxford. This feeling permeates the department as well, and I have to say that it is something that I thoroughly enjoy.
What’s been your favourite thing about the course to date?
I would have to say that it is the way that my current tutor has pushed me to think outside the box – I have been challenged and encouraged to break stereotypes and understand the world from an out-of-the-ordinary perspective. I know that many students would say that this happens in all universities. But here it is different. I leave the meetings with my tutor with a great deal of clarity about my research project, with my passion for my work recharged and with a great deal of ideas to be developed and explored. This is a feeling that gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction and opportunity.
What further opportunities have you gained so far through your degree?
I would say that my degree has helped me to progress in my career in my current school.
Did the College add anything to the quality of your student experience, and if so how?
College has been a wonderful experience. Although I do not live in Oxford and I work full time, Brasenose has in my case always kept in touch, offering multiple activities, both academic and leisure. I have been able to use the outstanding facilities that it has to offer. Even though I am more of a visitor than a permanent member, owing to my professional obligations, the College staff and other fellow students are always very welcoming. The level of care and support that I have experienced is second to none – I have never felt like an outsider. I would not be able to appreciate the experience of Oxford without the sense of belonging that that being part of a College has given me.