Learning to Teach


2 years ago, I wrote a post about applying to teach. That post talked about the ins and outs of applying to study on a teaching course. On this post, now that I have finished my teaching course, I will be discussing what it was like learning to teach PGCE FET.

Firstly, some quick pointers

  1. I discussed the DBS procedure in the last post that I made about applying to teach. Something that I neglected to mention, and will add to that post, is that your DBS expires in a year. When you apply, sign up for the Update service, to ensure it doesn’t expire, and to save you time/money.
  2. If you have a school/college you want to go to, tell your tutor. They will take that into consideration. However, if you have spoken to a school or college, and they have offered you a placement, tell your tutors. Universities work with them and need to arrange it.
  3. Make sure you sign up with a Union. I signed up with the NEU, though you may choose differently.
  4. I will discuss this later, but if your University offers CPD for free, I would recommend you go.
  5. Certain courses offer bursaries for learning to teach. That money is going into primary and secondary education, and being taken out of Further Education. This may be something worth considering when you apply.

Learning to Teach on Campus

Learning to teach on campus is a misnomer, really. In my experience, you don’t actually learn to teach on your course. You are learning the principles of teaching, not the actual teaching itself. I completed my PGCE at Edge Hill University, so your experience will differ from mine in some aspects. Learning to Teach at Edge Hill was quite a fun and exciting experience for me. The people on my course were a varied bunch, from different backgrounds, and looking to teach many different courses. There were students from Saudi Arabia, from up and down the country, and some from completely different careers. One person I know from my course was a 57-year-old pagan when he signed up and was a compere for festivals. That’s how varied the people are.

The Modules

The cohort was broken up into three groups, and there were 5 modules we had to complete, all 100% marked on coursework. They were:

  1. The Developing Teacher- This course taught the basic theory and practice. It was a pass or fail course with no credits, and was marked based on a ten-minute lesson we had to deliver, a lesson plan, and rationale.
  2. The Research Informed Teacher- This course was about learning to teach based on research. You learned about educational theorists. This was a credit-bearing module.
  3. The Employable Teacher- This course was broken up into three areas- Mathematics, English, and SEND. I chose SEND, and this talked about specific issues relating to employability and how to differentiate yourself from other candidates. It also enhanced how to design curriculum to better cater for your chosen group speciality. This was a credit-bearing module
  4. The Outstanding Teacher- This was the last course we did and was taught by a professor. This course was about examining the internal and external factors affecting the education sector, and their impact on practice, and learning to teach. This was a credit-bearing module.
  5. The Reflective Teacher- This wasn’t a course per se, and had no credits, but it helped us complete our Onenote portfolio, which I will discuss in more detail.

What it entailed

These courses involved Lectures, Seminars, and Tutorials, as one would expect. There were also optional Continuing Professional Development Courses offered after teaching was finished. These courses were often free and could be added to your CV. I did one during my time on the course, and it is worth doing them. You will get a certificate, and you will, once again, be able to add it to your CV.

My PGCE Course started in early September, though Secondary and Primary School teachers start earlier, in the middle of August. The first three weeks of my course were intense. They involved induction, lectures, meeting new people, signing up with the university, and sorting out funding. The first week had us in for 5 days, from 9 am-4 pm. Over the weeks, this goes down to 4 days, then 3 days, and finally 2 days. As you can tell, learning to teach is a commitment. It is long hours, and it is a step up from undergraduate studies.

My advice to you to help with this is to manage your time as best you can. You need to complete a lot of work during those first few weeks. Make sure you are taking breaks in studying, for food and sleep. Use the university facilities to their full extent, as the library is a good place to do your work. Your home may also be good, but limit distractions. My rule was from 8 am-8 pm I work on university projects, before taking an hour to relax, before I went to sleep.

Learning to Teach on Placement

Placement is where a lot of teacher training takes place. You get a mentor on placement and a mentor on campus. Your campus mentor assesses your progress and regularly comes into your placement to watch you teach. I had six observed sessions with my university, though this may differ for others. For all my lessons, I produce a lesson plan, and for observed lessons, I complete a rationale.

The Rationale

A rationale is essentially a document you use to justify why you are planning your lesson this way. You justify your teaching by using 20 professional standards created by the Education and Training Foundation. There are two columns, one where you discuss why you are doing something and how it relates to a standard, and the second about how it worked or didn’t work. You must fill in each box for each of the 20 standards at least once. You also add the rationale to your portfolio, along with 30 hours worth of lesson plans

What Placement is like

It differs from person to person. My personal experience was unique. I did not have a placement for the beginning of November. Instead, I had an enhancement placement for two weeks. I did this in a Specialist college for adult SEND learners who could not function in mainstream Further Education. My second placement was teaching History in a college near my home. My mentor had been there for some years, and was very helpful.

I initially taught level 3 history exclusively with him. This was three hours a week of teaching. To graduate the course, you must have 100 hours of teaching your specific subject. If you teach English or Maths, you must teach 130 hours of your subject, plus a separate one if you wish to specialise in more than one subject. I would not be able to complete my course with only 3 hours a week. Plus, I had to move groups, due to my teaching being on a Monday.

In February and March, I got more hours to teach. I was given the Level 2 History cohort and the Level 2 Social Policy Cohort. This bumped my teaching up to 11 hours a week. If you need more hours, be persistent. Persistence pays off. I also had the opportunity to attend staff meetings and took part in grading papers. This is a good place to gain experience, and I would take up offers to do this if I were you.

Learning to Teach in a Nutshell

Learning to Teach is a long, tiring, time-intensive thing. Gaining any PGCE is one of the hardest things you will ever do. But it is the most rewarding thing that you will ever do. By learning to teach, and gaining a qualification in teaching, you are opening yourself up to do more than just go in classrooms. It is a means of gaining new job opportunities in different fields. A PGCE FET is for Further Education and Training. Training in lots of fields, and being a trusted mentor with a background and wealth of knowledge in a particular field, as well as education. Doing a PGCE and learning to teach is a good career move, despite the current situations with the education sector.

Related Posts & External Links

Applying to Teach

5ive Tips: Advice for University

About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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