Student perspectives

The main outcomes or changes since I have been taking the course

When I had been teaching for two years I started to look around.  I knew that I wanted to improve my teaching – but I wanted to ensure I was aware of what to improve, how to improve and how to evaluate the improvement.  I was beginning to ask questions about my practice and about practices around me.  I was not finding answers in colleagues or in professional literature.  I’ve always had a thirst for learning and so I suppose my next step was to look for a Masters in education.  I selected the MLT because I really wanted to stay as a full time teacher.

The seminar weekends are very intensive but since starting the course I have questioned more.  I no longer take ideas and claims at face value I try to ensure that the ideas I accept are those that are backed by evidence.  The main differences in my teaching involve the use of language.  I have learned a lot about how very small changes to teacher talk can make very big differences to the experience of the student.  In addition I am much more likely to drill down into the answers that students give me – not accepting all on face value but really listen to their responses and question them.

I now have a better idea of the wealth of accessible research literature that can help me answer questions that professional literature cannot.  In addition I have received a grounding in pedagogy which I missed by training under the GTP scheme and this allows me to understand the concepts in the literature.

Since being on the course I have been promoted in school to be the second in the maths department.  This gives me a very real opportunity to make a difference to the students in my school and hopefully to disseminate some of the ideas from the course to other teachers.  Many of the ideas from the course have been discussed informally in my department and other teachers have been involved in the small scale investigations.  I would say at this stage, the effect on the department and school is an awareness of action research, rather than any great shift in culture.  However, after I surveyed my teaching groups about pupils’ perspectives on engagement the department did decide to implement an exercise on pupil voice.

Reflections on the first year of the Masters in Learning and Teaching

After starting as a science NQT at an inner London school, I took on a pastoral role at the end of my first year. At the end of my second year I moved to teach at a large rural comprehensive outside Bristol, where I was promoted to Head of Faculty. After six years in teaching I found that my time had become swamped by bureaucratic processes and I had ceased to reflect properly on my practice as a teacher and a manager. After a year away from school on maternity leave I decided to begin a Masters degree. I chose the Masters in Learning and Teaching at Oxford University for three reasons:

  1. I had found the PGCE course to be well organised and very well taught.  The supervisors were experts in their fields and challenged me to think
  2. The taught options were based around my main interests – how pupils learn, how teaching can help pupils learn and effective management of the school environment for learning
  3. The arrangement of teaching over four weekends in the year suited my work and childcare arrangements

From the start of the course I felt more motivated to improve my students experience in the classroom. I found myself becoming increasingly reflective about my practice and thinking at the end of each lesson ‘what have the students learnt today?’ rather than ‘what have I taught them today?’.  My first assignment looked at misconceptions and I was frightened by the findings – the students were a bright group but had only a very limited understanding of a basic science concept. It led me to assume less, ask more, and to take more time to plan how they might be able to learn the skills and subject matter. I fed back my findings to my department and this encouraged some of my colleagues to undertake similar small scale classroom research which impacted on their own teaching.

Having to make time to observe other colleagues both in my department and in other departments was incredibly useful. I found myself thinking more about the students’ experiences throughout the whole day, rather than just the hour that I saw them and also helped to build cross-curricular bridges in a large school where historically departments have been very separate. The course also made me engage with educational literature which I had largely ignored since completing my PGCE, and rediscover its potential to improve my practice and make me think.

My main challenge last year was discovering that I was pregnant with my second child and the baby was due before the end of the year. I therefore had to complete my examined assignments four months early which was hard alongside my commitments at home and in school. This year will also be challenging as I am not currently in school, although I do have access to classes and data etc through my former colleagues. Continuing with the Masters course allows me a break from my current role at home and keeps me up to date with current issues and thinking for when I return to teaching.

Examining my practice

The course has really helped me to examine my practice from the learners’ perspective, and I have since spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of shared understanding.  It’s so easy for me to assume that everyone in a class is paying attention to the same things as me, and has the same interpretation of everything I say, but the reality of that is very different.  Last year, we read a lot about the power of language, and how the meaning of something is embedded in the language used to express the concept.  As a maths teacher, I never realised how important the language I use in the classroom is to the experience of the learners.  Similarly, in maths, I often use a specific example to represent a general idea, concept, relationship or technique.  It’s easy to assume that learners know which aspects of the example are fixed, and which can change without changing the structure of the problem; yet if these are not made explicit, this is becomes ridiculous assumption! I spend a lot more time asking learners to generate examples now, to assess whether we do really have a shared understanding to work on, and my teaching has strengthened as a result.

Further perspectives from students on the MSc Learning and Teaching and other courses can be found on the What’s it like here page.

Page last modified: July 28, 2015