Subject and Professional Studies sessions are mandatory on the PGCE course, however, there are also optional ‘Enhancement Activities’ at the University of Worcester. These 12-hour programmes aim to enrich the trainee experience and bolster employability prospects. The Enhancement Activity opportunities are Special Education Needs/Disability (SEND), English as an Additional Language (EAL), Citizenship and PSHE, Technology Enhanced Learning, Teenage Mental Health, Second Subject teaching and Aspiring Leaders.
As lead of the Citizenship and PSHE Enhancement Activity, I was acutely aware of the significance of ensuring trainee well-being as an integral thread in the programme delivery during the pandemic. Quickly and efficiently adapting to online teaching was also a necessity. These two issues were considered by implementing the following:
- Consistent trainee feedback to inform practice.
- Offering ‘comfort breaks’ for online learning.
- Well-being articles.
- Diversifying learning activities.
- Shared documents and group work to allow for professional conversations.
- Extending opportunities for engagement beyond sessions.
- Strategies for teaching sensitive topic areas.
- Microteaching with post lesson discussions to encourage pedagogical reflection.
- Strong subject, Professional Studies and Enhancement Activity synoptic links.
To further support trainee teachers in their role as ‘future critical workers’, I endeavoured to include opportunities to critically reflect on Covid-19 ‘think pieces’ and articles related to student experience and post Covid-19 expectations of education. Acknowledging the trainees’ experience on placement has also been a fundamental aspect of the programme. Facilitating the opportunity for discursive tone in teaching sessions and providing a platform for communication to continue such discussion has been a key highlight.
Setting up Microsoft Teams for the cohort of 60 has aided in the creation of a ‘community’. On the Teams page, trainees can share resources and lesson plans, pose questions/thoughts whilst also providing an opportunity for me to share key logistical information of sessions and signpost webinars, podcasts, articles, and courses. Utilising ‘Microsoft Forms’ on Teams has been an important way to gain feedback and allow trainees to have some autonomy in the programme content, delivery and choose their specialisms for microteaching (Citizenship or PSHE). Subsequent feedback has also been obtained following sessions with guest speakers and taught content. The choice of Microsoft Teams as the platform has been underpinned by the knowledge that many schools across the country use this for remote learning. Giving the trainee teachers experience of this technology will improve competence and confidence on placement.
It will be interesting to see how such adaptations to the Citizenship and PSHE Enhancement Activity will inform future planning. Learning from the influence of the pandemic on practice will be crucial.
Allowing trainees to connect with authentic learning experiences has been pivotal. Scaffolding threshold concepts with a view to planning and delivering Citizenship and PSHE ‘form time activities’ has strengthened the programme. Such scaffolding has been supported by exposing trainees to expert, engaging external speakers. Drawing on the highly skilled lecturers in our university across the School of Education has also been key to the programme.
Finally, creating a ‘spiral curriculum’ that moves through this scaffolded learning and collaboration to research-informed, independent practice. Such planning is with a view to trainees making meaningful contributions to learners in their charge, to ‘Teach Best’.
In terms of what role ITE partnerships play in developing future teachers in the post-pandemic landscape, I believe acknowledging the current context whilst maintaining a learner-centred programme that inspires trainees to ‘question the given’ will be significant.
Developing the ability to analyse and reflect upon the intersection between theory and practice should allow trainees to be receptive to learner needs and Covid-19 aware. Delivering Citizenship and PSHE aspects of the Enhancement Activity has been a significant opportunity to engage in professional conversations that may influence practice to support learners. Notably with possibly more prevalent topics such as grief, relationships, mental health, and digital citizenship.
Personally, becoming a teacher fuelled my passion for reflective practice, to respond to education as an ever-evolving concept and to teach with purpose and heart – a philosophy I adhered to when teaching in secondary schools and I continue to share with trainees at the University of Worcester.
The resilience and adaptability of our trainees this year has been inspiring. I have every confidence that they will continue to significantly influence the education community going forward into the post-pandemic landscape.