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Nottingham PGCEi: half-time

Discussion in 'Qualifications & Courses' started by portnoy58, 5 May 2015.

  1. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 1 Nottingham PGCEi General Overview

    Nottingham market the course as a blended learning programme running over a 12 month period: an initial face to face event followed by a series of four learning modules each assessed by a written assignment. The good news is that the face to face element ( in October in 2014 and 2015) consists of a four day event in a quality Bangkok hotel and after that there are no further attendance requirements. A positive feature of the face to face event is that the catering at the hotel (The Vie Hotel) is superb with freshly made cappuccino and espresso on tap, wonderful food and reasonably comfortable conditions. After the face to face event has been concluded students are left to get on with studying each of the modules in consecutive order and submitting each of the four assignments within the scheduled deadlines.

    At the face to face event students are allocated to tutors who are present at the event and indeed deliver the bulk of the activities. While the relationship thereafter is electronic with communication mainly by email, the fact that you actually can put a face to your tutor mitigates against what might otherwise be a completely impersonal relationship.

    Much of the initial focus is to get students up to speed in order to tackle the rigours of academic writing and to be able to complete the first assignment which is due at the end of January. This makes sense as many students have no recent experience of academic writing (or reading) in 25 + years. For Assignment 1 students are required to submit an initial draft of their assignment to their tutor at the end of December which enables feedback and guidance to be provided prior to submission of the final copy: that is the one that is graded and marked. Proposals and plans are required for other assignments but not submission of a draft. So my advice would be to make the most of this opportunity in Assignment 1 and be as outrageous as you wish! Interestingly, my tutor picked up a tendency on my part to be polemical at times - (how could he possibly think that, shurely shome mishtake there! - ed) - and it was useful to have this pointed out at the beginning of the course and the need to focus on positive critique in terms of written submissions.

    There is also a requirement to submit a record of process work for each module using a standard format. This is equivalent to classwork and usually consists of brief written activities (about 500 words) reflecting on one's own practice or thoughts on a particular issue. For instance: what are the essential features of an international school? Participants are strongly encouraged to keep a 'common place book': a sort of notebook of their study activities and any other relevant events. There is no requirement to do this and no one checks the common place book but in my experience it was worthwhile doing as bidden. It undoubtedly helped when it came to written assignments and process work: I found that I could lift sections from the common place book and insert them into my submitted work virtually unedited. Process work is graded Pass or Fail though it does not contribute to overall grade. The inside track appears to be getting it in, and so long as it doesn't consist of gibberish, will get you Pass

    It is often described as an academic degree as the course lacks an assessed teaching practice. However it does its best to make up for this by making Assessments 3 and 4 self-evaluation of actual practice. Theoretically it would be possible to invent the lessons or activities used for these assignment but I think it would take a rather clever individual to do so and get away with it. Likewise I think it would be genuinely difficult to complete these activities without having access to a class or equivalent situation. You really need to plan the lessons and activities for these assignments and then evaluate them against the theory taught in the module. I found this part of the course really impacted on my teaching and is where I felt I really learned most.

    It ain't cheap at £3330.00 (2014/15 and 2015/16) but that fee covers everything including the cost of the face to face event. There were no additional fees although you can generate additional costs if you buy books and software for reference management etc. However there is no need to buy anything extra as all the materials are available electronically through the study module system, known as Moodle. You can pay in two instalments, one at the end of October and one at the end of January. The university's system doesn't seem to accept Thai plastic so you may have an additional cost of bank transfers.

    Finally you get access to an online academic library. This is a fantastic resource meaning that virtually every academic journal is at your finger tips and many text books are also available in electronic format. Standard reference works, for instance, those published by Oxford University Press, such as the OED and Dictionary of National Biography, can also be accessed along with Who's Who and much more.

    The application process was reasonably smooth. The admin staff reply to emails promptly and the process is really quite simple: a standard online application form with a personal statement and verified copies of your certificates. They have agents at various locations who will scan and verify these freely for the university. My advice would be to apply early as I believe there is more and more demand for this type of course and qualification and applicants are turned away simply because of a lack of space.


    Next Module One
     
    Last edited: 27 Oct 2015
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  2. bahn_farang

    bahn_farang Well-Known Member

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    This issue has now been sorted.

    Great introduction.

    Will second the praise of the location.

    First night stayed in a budget place. No sleep, no hot water …agh!! I checked out of the dump and checked into the Vie hotel. 4 nights of luxury. It really was worth it
     
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  3. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 2
    Nottingham PGCEi
    Module 1: Contexts

    In 2014/2015 this first module consisted of three units: (i) Purposes of the School Curriculum; (ii) Understanding International Education; & (iii) Understanding the Classroom. With the benefit of hindsight it is perhaps the most fragmented of all the modules. The other three units have a single focus like "Understanding Learning", Module 2.

    Highlights in Unit 1 were: Bottery's 'codes of education and their effects' sometimes described as a 'taxonomy of education'; Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (however it is virtually unreadable in any language due to his reliance on highly technical vocabulary, theoretical concepts and complex sentence structure, but I am with this guy in terms of his Marxist-Humanist analysis and perspective).

    I enjoyed Unit 2 on International Education: a lot of practical stuff here on international schools and international curricula and interesting to consider concepts such as 'cosmopolitanism' and 'international-mindedness'. Excellent grounding for teachers who work away from home. My sense is that international education is a very broad church with on the one hand a range of top class schools which remain true to the original humanist-promoting-harmony values of the early movement, given a major impetus by the start up of the League of Nations in the 1920s; on the other hand it is quite clear that there is very little to stop any facility calling itself 'international' and this is now happening in many parts of the world regardless of the fact that many of these schools are in fact 'national' schools; add in the complicating factor that many national schools, notably public schools in the UK, are moving to international curricula due to their discontent with changes to national curricula.

    Unit 3 introduces students to important tools like classroom observation and the awful sounding 'multimodal semiotic analysis'; the former in particular is important later in the course for Assignments 3 and 4. I carried out 'a multimodal semiotic analysis' and it actually was highly informative. Basically you are monitoring all the non-verbal cues in the classroom. The unit also introduced the concept of 'Positive Education' which is actually a bit of a giggle nd is good t practise your critical skills on!

    So these Units formed the basis for Module 1's process work which I completed and submitted mid-December. This passed. Good resources on the module: videos, book excerpts, articles and pamphlets plus vintage footage of the late great Pete Seager singing What did you learn in school today? Another good feature of each module is a further reading section all of which is available in electronic format through the library.

    I struggled to come up with an assignment topic. The start was prescribed: "An Ideal Classroom in an Ideal School: ...................." Students had to fill in the remainder of the title. Suggestions included were "Values, curriculum and pedagogy in an international school". In the end I came up with a topic and managed to knock out 3,000 + words. Got through it. Passed. At the time I recall feeling disappointed by the grade and feedback I received. At the draft stage I was advised to provide a stronger focus on the afore-mentioned Bottery and then criticised in the graded paper for focusing on him too much. Looking back it is quite funny but at the time I was a wee bit peeved! Anyhow, I bit the bullet and got my head down and got on with Module 2.
     
  4. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 3
    Nottingham PGCEi
    Module 2: Understanding Learning


    Module 2 covers the major theories underpinning development and learning. The module provides students with some choice. Basically it is split into two parts, A and B. Part A’s units are concerned with the major psychological theories: behaviourism, motivation and engagement, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence, Skinner, Piaget and Vygotsky. Students are required to complete 12 compulsory predetermined units from this part and then a further 13 units from both parts; Part B focuses on some of the more distinctive approaches to learning : Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Freire, Nyerere, Gandhi, Makiguchi.

    I really enjoyed Vygotsky and to a lesser extent Piaget and wrote my assignment on a Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. In some respects this was the easiest of all assignments as it was due in mid-April by which stage I was in my sixth week of vacation. However this work really started to highlight the difficulties of applying theory in my work place. I accept there is a gulf between theory and practice but I really started to realise how huge that gulf really was.

    Once more I didn’t get a great grade given the effort I made. Strong on theory weak on its application. Fair comment. However I found the whole writing process much easier. I also think the approach taken really helped me get a good handle on Lev Vygotsky, a truly remarkable guy who started out just after the Russian Revolution and who sadly died from TB in 1934 aged 38. His work, however, didn’t really emerge in the west until the 1960s since when he’s kind of taken over from Piaget as the new kid on the block of developmental psychology. Remarkable given that his written work all dates to the 1920s and 30s. Also remarkable that his description of development is so simple and logical.

    There is a tendency to see Piaget and Vygotsky as opposite ends of the so called constructivist school. What is interesting is that they were contemporaries and they knew of each other’s work but they never met and one wonders what might have emerged had they been able to collaborate and debate. Quite a lot of focus also on theories emerging from Vygotsky - Bruner and Wood's description of scaffolding and Wood's subsequent theory of contingent learning.
     
  5. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 4
    Nottingham PGCEi
    Module 3: Approaches to Teaching


    To my mind this module is where the course really takes off. From the onset students would be well advised to keep their eye on the assignment requirements:
    1. plan a short series of lessons ( at least three lessons are suggested) based on the various units of the module; the written lesson plans and copies of materials used should be added to your assignment as an appendix;
    2. before you teach the lessons, write up the first part of your assgnment as an introduction to the lessons, setting out objectives and the reasons for the approach taken and choices made;
    3. teach the lessons
    4. for the second part of the assignment, evaluate the lessons after you have taught them highlighting what worked and what didn't.
    You can include transcripts, videos, sound recordings, vignettes etc as appendices to highlight your practice; link them using bookmarks in Word.I am in no doubt that what is needed is a graphic description of what happened in your lessons, the good and not so good, and the more you focus on this the better your grade will be so long as you relate it to the theory. There is no requirement to confirm the theory - your tutor will probably get quite excited if you critique the theory!

    The nine units in this module are both relevant and topical:

    1. Planning for Learning
    2. Collaborative Learning
    3. Issues in Assessment
    4. Questioning
    5. Special Educational Needs and Inclusion
    6. English as an Additional Language
    7. Differentiation
    8. Managing Classroom Behaviour
    9. ICT in Education
    Once more it is a matter of choice except in this module there are no compulsory activities; you basically have to select two units for which you will complete all the activities; then a further 12 activities from four of the remaining units. So in effect you select six units, and for two of these units you decide to do everything and then three activities from each of the remaining four units. A further feature of these units is they have options within activities which are appropriate to the different levels you might be teaching: kindergarten, primary and secondary.

    The material in this module is truly outstanding and relevant. I learned loads. I want to mention Unit 6, EAL. I didn't select this but I read some of it and discovered two really important concepts: BICS and CALP, mnemonics for Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, coined by Jim Cummins in the early 1980s. The theory is most language learners can acquire BICS in 18 months to 2 years but that it can take upwards of six years to acquire CALP. I found and indeed find this distinction really helpful in my day to day work, in terms of realising most of my students have low level BICS but everything about their actual educational experience in terms of content and textbooks presupposes some level of CALP.

    But in fairness I found it all quite stimulating and interesting. Some of it relating to Assessment for Learning I was really familiar with but the Collaborative Learning stuff was also interesting and I have applied some of the theory to good effect in the classroom.

    As I think I reported in another entry in this thread I hit pay dirt on the assignment and broke into distinction territory with my grade.
     
  6. professeur

    professeur Well-Known Member

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    Congrats, well done and hopefully I'll be in your shoes at around this time one year from now. Just had my face-to-face three days ago so now I'm just getting on the way with unit 1 of module 1, well you've been there. The 4 day face-to-face were very positive; intense but inspiring non the less.

    Congrats again, what are your plans; get your TL and stay in Thailand or will you be spreading your wings?
     
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  7. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Eh bien mon prof.... neither my wife or I are Thai so our future in the long term can never really be here except if we retired and that is not on the horizon, regardless of creeping nearer to that time of life! Time to spread the wings, I reckon, but it looks as though it may take until the new year to get the certificate. However I am also looking at more study. I am thinking I might apply to do the Masters at the Institute of Education in London, part of the new UCL merger. I am also very interested in taking my knowledge of Maths forward so would be interested in any online opportunities in this field. The Open University's degrees are not available in Thailand so would be interested if anyone knows of any other possibilities. Right now, just enjoying the absence of any academic deadline in my life!

    Good luck with the course. I think it is one of those that the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
     
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  8. bahn_farang

    bahn_farang Well-Known Member

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    Any highlights to share?
     
  9. professeur

    professeur Well-Known Member

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    Well, let's start with the food; I don't think I've ever had such excessive lunches before in my life, guess I might have gained a few pounds last week. I thought that the general atmosphere was very positive, people were very helpful and everybody was into it. There were people living and working in about a dozen different countries and it was interesting to hear about their experiences. They could prove to be useful contacts for the future too. Always good to know some people for information on the possibilities to work in say Myanmar or Cambodia or so.

    I'ts also good to know that this course doesn't necessarily has to be a lonely struggle and that you have people to fall back on, even if it's an online thingie. I thought that the parts on academic writing were very helpful too: This is the bit that I have been (and still am) most afraid off, but I feel that I've been helped a bit.

    The activities in general were quite useful and good fun, I like the way they set you up for teamwork using information on your badge or even your choice of candy bars, it actually gave me a few ideas to try on my own classes. I liked the activities where you had to guess what number's on your back without being allowed to ask someone directly, or the one where you had to line up according to your birthday without making a sound. Definitely useful stuff for future summer-schools, English camps etc.

    I generally feel better prepared for the whole thing than I was before, you get a sense of how to work, how much work will be required and, very importantly, of what the tutors will be expecting of you. This also thanks to our final two speakers who were people that finishes the course just days earlier, some very useful tips here again.

    I feel fired up for the PGCEi thing and I'm hoping to keep the good spirits up.
     
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  10. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 5
    Nottingham PGCEi
    Module 4: Investigating Student Understanding


    You've learned the theory, applied it in the classroom, how do you know know your students understand what they have been taught? Welcome to the final module which culminates in an original piece of research on some aspect of understanding.

    I was thrown by the way modules 3 and 4 overlap. I was getting down to writing Assignment 3 when I suddenly realised Module 4 's process work was due. This threw me a little. In fact the process work for Module 4 is to submit a research proposal. The first two units lead students through this process.

    I really enjoyed some of the content here: David Perkins' definition of understanding as 'flexible capability performance' and his work around explaining this and other models of understanding is classic stuff. I also enjoyed Gary Thomas' philosophical musings on epistemology, the theory of knowledge, specifically his answer to the question 'What is theory?'.

    You'll need to treat this as a real research project, find an issue worthy of exploration, get formal consent to carry out the research from your institution, obtain participant/parental consents and then do it. You'll need to plan activities and then record these and analyse them before writing it all up in Assignment 4. Units 1 & 2 take you through the preliminary processes and Unit 3 deals with different methodologies.

    I produced a short case study about a primary school student's issues learning fractions and once more I got a good grade. The one piece of advice I would offer is to allow yourself ample time to analyse your data: it really helps. I have no doubt that I received good grades in Assignments 3 & 4 because the assignments were rich with real life examples.
     
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  11. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Part 6
    Nottingham PGCEi
    Conclusion


    This course provides a perfect marriage between the theory and practise of teaching as well as facilitating non-qualified teachers' passage over the bureaucratic hurdles of working as a foreign teacher. There are cheaper options and these might be better if your wish does not extend beyond staying on in Thailand and teaching. If you are interested in learning about teaching and getting a strong academic foundation to support your practice then I think this is a truly outstanding course. It is perhaps also at the cutting edge of how higher education might evolve in the future blending traditional learning processes with new ones made possible by the brave new world of ICT.

    I was impressed by the grading system although not necessarily by my personal experience of it! What I liked was the spot marking - you can only get 53 or 58, 63 or 68, 73 and 78 and so on. This makes perfect sense to my mind. I never understood how a tutor could decide to score one paper at 71 and another at 69. So this seems much fairer especially as there are quite detailed criteria for grading. It's at this point that my confusion enters: I really struggled to understand how one assignment was graded at 68 and another at 78! Hey I can live with this now.

    The tutorial support system flatters to deceive in my opinion. In the final analysis, however, this is self-directed learning. I never once got a Skype tutorial and it was never offered to me even though the impression made on the face to face and elsewhere was that this was a common occurence. When I asked for one, my tutor was so busy for the next six years that it was quite clear he was saying no! In the end every thing was done by email and in real terms this was fine. However if a student was really struggling then there is no guarantee that a tutor would pick up on this until late on as deadlines approach. Clearly, therefore, students should keep in regular contact with their tutors. In fairness my tutor responded when I wrote to him and perhaps my lukewarm stance in this area might be influenced by the fact that he didn't always give me what I wanted!

    There are processes for deferring studies and for getting extensions due to mitigating circumstances so students do have options. As always timeliness is the key - apply in good time, before deadlines have passed! In this respect the course staff are particularly helpful.

    Unless my cohort was a sneaky, secretive bunch I didn't get much sense of collaboration outside of the face to face and the forums were mainly functional - we posted what the various modules required us to post but outside of this, discussion and interaction were fairly minimal. There is no doubt in my mind that being able to talk with other people about your coursework really helps the learning process. My missus is a teacher and one of my colleagues was always interested in my studies so I talked a lot with them and this really helped me.

    There is no doubt that the burden of academic writing eases with practice. Keeping a common place book facilitates this as in effect when you write in it you are, for instance, writing up a lesson, summarising an article, writing thoughts on a teaching video etc. This is a good way to hone your critical skills and when you come to write assignments it is just a bigger project and in real terms all you are doing is being more structured. There is quite a lot of help on line: just enter 'academic writing' into Google.

    I would say that I learned surprisingly more than I thought I would and that the course has really made me a better teacher. I feel more comfortable in the classroom, I seem to understand some student behaviour more readily and I feel much more resourceful in supporting and scaffolding students. I also find myself asking myself: well how do you know these kids understand this? And this leads to me planning very simple activities to do a little testing or should I say measuring, because, of course, as a result of the Assessment for Learning content in Module 3, I no longer give grades!

    It's of course too early to say what impact this course will have on my employability. I'm not driven by an overwhelming desire to get a full five year Thai teacher's license, only really in so far as it might help me get a job in another school! I will apply for the license, as I say, to give me 'free agency'.

    However I see my future outside of Thailand as neither I or the missus are Thai and we are not overly impressed by our experience of the system ( major understatement!). With two young kids and modest resources, meeting their educational needs is our priority.

    Anecdotally I've heard of people who completed the course securing jobs in good international schools; one of Bangkok's finest schools have confirmed the PGCEi meets their essential requirements. So in the next few months I will get down to the task of marketing myself and trying to persuade someone to employ me. I am quite excited about the prospect and I feel confident about being able to talk the talk as I already know I can do the necessary walking.

    I am likely to pursue Masters and I am actively looking at University College London for this which is of course home to the much lauded Institute of Education. I am genuinely interested in the theory and the research but really only in so far as it impacts in the classroom and enhances learning. However I think I'll have a break for a few months and look to begin this next year. But it's great to have such opportunities!

    That's it folks! Looks like it's going to take a while to get the certificate but the university has said they'll issue letters of confirmation so watch this space. Sic transit gloria mundi ....... yahoo sucks, (now an unintended pun) !
     
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  12. professeur

    professeur Well-Known Member

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    About two months into it now; so far so good. I've handed in my process work two weeks ago and got a pass within two days. Guess I've been lucky since other fellow cohorters haven't heard from their tutor in weeks. The first month and a half you're supposed to do a lot of reading, keep a common place book and post contributions on the forum. I've been a good boy and have been keeping up with my work from day one so no stress yet. Right now I'm breeding on my first real assignment called “my ideal classroom” which I hope to finish over the Christmas break. So far so good though; I've enjoyed most of the material so far, it's not just articles and books but there's also some audio and video material to give it more relevance. I can see this course to actually make you a better and more confident teacher so no regrets for signing up quite yet.
     
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  13. professeur

    professeur Well-Known Member

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    How much time in between the moment you received your pass for the M4 assignment and the this notification?
     
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  14. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    there was a hitch last year; initially they announced a deadline of Monday 5th October for M4, but then, on discovering an error, they brought it forward to Friday 2nd October for those wanting to graduate in December 2015. The option of submitting it on 5th October remained with the proviso that you would not be able to graduate until March 2016. The 2nd October was the last day of my first semester with a whole raft of admin stuff due in. I tried to make it but just couldn't do it plus there was the possibility of getting a distinction so I took the extra weekend and am glad I did as I got the distinction. My result came out in the same way but basically by taking the extra weekend I missed the deadline for submission of all final scores to some academic committee that rubber stamps the various awards. Don't ask me why ... They did issue a letter at the end of October to say I had completed the course satisfactorily but this didn't mention grades or much more.
     
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  15. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    The above was just a long-winded way of saying if you complete M4 assignment to deadline you'll graduate in December and should have the cert in January.
     
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