Andrew Wilkinson (PGCE Modern Foreign Languages)

Tell us something about what you were doing before you came to Oxford

Armed Forces – Full time for 5 years. Prior to the course I was on active service in Afghanistan. I left Durham University in 2000.

What do you like most about studying in the Department of Education?

The small curriculum groups provide a really good forum to explore different teaching approaches and to bounce ideas off the other interns and those leading the sessions. The tutor / intern setup is excellent – much of the contact time with tutors is arranged informally, which means you can ask for guidance when and where you need it most. This was particularly useful for me during the earlier academic assignments because I had spent a long time away from critical writing.

What attracted you to the programme of study here?

A major attraction was the endorsement from interns who had recently completed the course. They advised me that it would be a ’hands-on’ course, with a significant educational theory element, particularly in the assignments. Having been away from education for some time I wanted to be challenged to think hard about different approaches to teaching and importantly why should I do it one way rather than another. I wanted a strong theoretical element to the course, to supplement the experiences in the classroom.

What qualities do you think an Education student at Oxford needs to have in order to be successful?

Resilience and a sense of humour! Its a busy year – more than I anticipated, and so I think you need to want what comes at the end to keep motivated when there’s a lot on. Humour is crucial – whether its in the classroom (I think kids are hilarious) or in curriculum sessions some of the best and most memorable times have been laughing…. I never thought we would end up performing ‘rap’ live in front of the MFL course and then trying to get pupils to do this in class!

If you are a PGCE student, how has your course influenced your thinking about teaching?

The course has helped me develop my thought processes about how I want to teach. There are no fixed rules about how to do this, but we have been encouraged to think hard about and to be able to justify why we choose to adopt the strategies we do.

Some of the ideas floated in curriculum sessions (use of ICT, multimedia, songs etc) have helped me to be more creative in class.
We hope that you would recommend the Department of Education as a place to come and study. What reasons would you give for this? The course is hard work but rewarding and good fun, and the staff are fully committed, friendly and supportive. It is a well considered educational establishment which will help boost your credibility when competing with more experienced teachers for your first job.

If you have an inquisitive mind this course will definitely encourage you to question and justify to yourself why you do things the way you do.

What are your career ambitions after you complete the course?

To focus on providing the most interesting, fun, engaging lessons I can. I am currently not really interested in rapid career development or moving up the management ladder, just in trying to do the basics as well as I can.

If I knew before I started the course what I know now, I would….

enjoy the first 3-4 weeks and make the most of Oxford before things start getting busy! I would try to maintain a healthier life-work balance earlier in the year. I think its important to have something ‘non-teaching’ orientated to recharge the batteries. I would probably have been more adventurous in trying creative activities at an earlier stage in the year. Its easy to forget that the PGCE is a chance for you to try new things in a comparatively benign environment – if your idea doesn’t work with a class that is a valid outcome, and I think it is better to try it out, and to realise through experience that you can do it differently next time.

Page last modified: March 11, 2014