When the World Shuts Down: Delivering a Successful Teacher Training Course
Dan Hughes, School of Education
I was the course leader for PGCE Primary when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lockdown in March 2020 and the challenges for the course were significant. The impact was that our 2019/20 trainees could not go into school for their final placement and face-to-face lectures were stopped. Placements are fundamental to professional courses; they give the trainees time to put theory into practice. The third placement of their year is also where they are assessed against the Teachers’ Standards (Department for Education, 2021). This could not happen, and the question was simply, what do we do?
We delivered an entire nine-week online curriculum, supported by coaches/mentors, that focused on different Teachers’ Standards that the trainees needed to meet at the end of the course. Our trainees needed strong professional development and personalised support (V2). Members of staff were allocated to deliver specific weeks that suited their strengths and expertise. I led the first week with two other colleagues. We wanted to provide a suitable model and identify any challenges. This led to the creation of an individual plan for the week, including aims, launch lectures, indicative content, Collaborate lectures, a final reflection lecture, student tasks and wider reading (A1, A2, A4, K2, K3). This format and model were evaluated positively by the trainees, demonstrating a strong impact on their progress:
“It has been challenging; however, the shutdown gave us time to dig deeper into various areas of teaching…The team managed to switch over to online learning quickly and training became more demanding as time went by. The learning curve for the training team was steep and they did splendidly.”
Further qualitative comments demonstrated how the enforced shift enhanced their understanding:
“It is clear how much the staff, mentors, lecturers etc. have helped produce worthwhile, productive weeks to aid our training. They have really put effort into supporting us and providing us with excellent material…The time has allowed me to put a focus on CPD and excel in areas I probably would not have without lockdown. I feel that I have met the standards in a wholly different manner and learnt more because of it.”
For the course and the team, the impact of the programme was improved confidence for everyone in terms of online delivery and we demonstrated how a sense of community could be fostered online. It led to weekly updates linked to research, innovative online lectures and greater involvement of the wider partnership in delivering courses. 100% of all trainees on both university-based and school-based pathways felt that the course would help them to secure employment. This was a 5% increase from the previous year. As challenging as it was, the shift resulted in satisfied trainees where the team had come together to provide an impactful training programme in the most trying of circumstances (A1, A2, A5).
Through leading this, I have increased confidence to lead and support the team, knowing that we have succeeded before. The good practice that we put into place will continue to be used in future delivery and will empower all of us to strive for the best for all trainees’ whatever obstacles come before us. It was founded on research and being creative and adaptable. At the centre was strong communication, which is key to scaffolding a positive learning experience for all learners (Rasmussen, 2001).
Department for Education (2021) Teachers’ standards: Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1007716/Teachers__Standards_2021_update.pdf (Accessed: 8 September 2021)
Rasmussen, J. (2001) ‘The importance of communication in teaching: A systems-theory approach to the scaffolding metaphor’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 33(5), pp. 569-582. doi: 10.1080/00220270110034369.