This week I started my Post Graduate Certificate (PGCert) in Higher Education. Which I realise doesn’t sound like a great bundle of laughs but please stay with me, I promise it’s fractionally less dull than it sounds!

Before I go any further I should explain that the person who is teaching a big chunk of this course (and examining me) is probably going to read this blog post. So I’m totally on my best behaviour- [ED: Didn’t you just imply that the course was “dull”?] – ummm

Right, so a PGCert is an amazing, fascinatingly cool and intresting course in how to teach people.

It exists as a way of combating the old model of “I’m a good lecturer because I’ve done it for years” approach to university teaching by ensuing that everyone can go get some basic training in helping people learn.

I don’t think there are many people who would argue that university lecturers shouldn’t be given more training. Almost everyone I know has a story of an absolutely terrible lecturer who seems to have absolutely no aptitude for teaching. Despite what some people think, having a PhD doesn’t automatically make you good at communicating. I’d possibly argue that completing a PhD is probably more likely to make you bitter and disgruntled towards students.

Coffee teaching

The course offered by my university is split into testing a whole range of skills that may be required during your teaching, which range from taught courses to one-to-one supervision. What’s covered by the PGCert is dictated by The Higher Education Academy who have set out the guidance on what you have to have learnt to qualify.

However, from talking to people from other Universities, there is a wide range of interpretations on how this is converted into a training course for staff.

Ours is split in to 3 modules which simplistically cover; 1 – teaching skills, 2- course design and 3 – research skills (funding and publishing). Each one consisting of about 2 weeks of taught components and various online interactive thingamies.

So my journey through all this started on Monday, with my first 2 day workshop held by a ‘facilitator’ as part of module 1.

Meeting facilitatorSide note: I really don’t know why but I hate it when meetings are held by ‘facilitators’ – it’s been really trendy of late at Cranfield, and to me it never stop sounding like an idea someone had after watching too many episodes of ‘The Office’.

The workshop was kind of an overview of what I’ve just explained (although with a LOT more detail, obviously) and basically pointed out what we needed to do to get the qualification. It also offered some detailed tips and suggestions for running lectures and trying to encourage class engagement. It even included the obligatory ‘dated video with an awkward voice over‘. And we drew some stick men.

The assessment of the course is pretty basic as it’s really focused on you proving that you actually listen to what they are trying to suggest and have applied it. Rather than sit exams or hand in coursework with impenetrable titles like “Why you think Higher Education is like a panda that’s run out of bamboo”, we are assessed on both our actual teaching (the examiner comes and judges us, possibly in Judge Dredd cosplay) and on the notes we make on our teaching experiences. The notes take the form of a kind of journal of our student interactions and show how we’ve reflectively considered how we might improve.

This journal part was where I was particularly interested because in the literature for the course there was some emphasis on doing this via ‘blogging’. Unfortunately there was little discussion about how to do this or how to combat any of the issues (see previous post) that comes with that kind of blogging. I had hoped for more insight into how to share this kind of content but sadly there was little beyond “try wordpress or blogger”.

But ignoring this very minor weakness, I have to say that the course is so far very interesting. The content is far more applicable and helpful than I’d though it might be and there are large sections which make me wish I’d started it sooner. This is particularly true of aspects of project design which was one of those moments where I said to myself “ohh yeah, that does make loads of sense and would have avoid all that stress – oops”.

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Categories: ErrantWritings


iWantMarbles · 3 September 2014 at 23:36

What about a Cranfield Bloggers community where members (other bloggers) take it in turns to be ‘grammarian’ for the week and annoyingly point out areas for potential improvement? Perk of the job? Get to set a ‘word (or phrase) of the week’ which all other Community bloggers must try and work into their weekly post! 😀

    Matthew (@MCeeP) · 4 September 2014 at 09:01

    That sounds good, it would be great to get a bit more conversation between us. Although I only know of 3 (including mine) that are active. Might be a bit of a niche group

Laura · 4 September 2014 at 10:33

Hey, I’m glad you are trying this – I also tried to do my PGCert through blogging, but they were so worried about plagiarism I was forced to make it a private one. However, as it’s all over now I hope to start posting some of the contents publicly over on my blog – who knows, it might help provoke your discussions!

    Matthew (@MCeeP) · 4 September 2014 at 10:37

    I would be really intresting to read yours if you can put them up. Finding good examples is always difficult!

    While I’m doing the PGCert but I probably won’t be doing it via blogging. Most of what I do is one-to-one there is no way I can make it sufficiently anonymous. Also the style of my blog doesn’t quite fit the portfolio I think they are looking for. Making cynical cracks about the course is probably not what they want 😀

    Although I doubt including more stick men would be do it any harm!

My Technology Enhanced Learning coursework · 29 January 2015 at 10:30

[…] I mentioned before, I’m taking my PGCert in Higher Education. For those not in the know, this is a qualification […]

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