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.
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.
Side 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”.