a centenary
of Learning

  • 71
  • by Sarah MacDonald
  • graduated 2010
  • studied MEd in Psychology of Education
  • from United Kingdom

After five years of teaching, I was thrilled to be a student again.

After completing my first degree in Modern Languages at King’s College, London, I studied for a PGCE and became a secondary school French teacher. My career goal was to become an Educational Psychologist, which required five years in the classroom and a Masters in Psychology. This is often known as a ‘conversion course’ since it is designed to give non-psychology graduates the knowledge-base and skills required to move into further study or careers in Psychology. Unfortunately, in my fifth year of teaching, experience in the classroom was no longer required for entry into Educational Psychology. Instead, a Doctorate in Educational Psychology was necessary, so my MEd at Bristol was only the first rung on what is still proving to be a very long ladder!

I chose to study at Bristol because the Psychology of Education Masters is accredited by the British Psychological Society. The University also has an excellent reputation and is known for both its academic rigour and world-class research. I was keen to share experiences and good practice with a wide range of postgraduates from the UK and further afield. The city itself is a diverse and fun place to live. I loved Park Street with all its independent book and coffee shops and spent many happy Sundays on the Downs and in Clifton Village. The city is so compact you can find everything you need without getting into a car.

After five years of teaching, I was thrilled to be a student again and enjoyed settling down to my first lecture at the Graduate School of Education. It was great to listen to someone else doing all the talking. I particularly enjoyed the modules taught by Dr Helen Knowler. Her lectures were especially engaging and her teaching style meant that I felt comfortable asking questions and contributing my own ideas and experiences. Dr Knowler’s research interests were also very similar to my own and I found that her projects and ideas helped to inform and assist my own teaching practice.

Completing the MEd changed the direction of my career significantly, as it enabled me to teach children with Special Needs in a mainstream school. The knowledge I gained at the Graduate School of Education helped me understand and meet the needs of a wide range of young people, including those with Autism and Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties. After completing the course I even chose to return to the classroom in order to gain further practical experience working with vulnerable children and their families. I enjoyed working as part of a multi-agency team with the shared goal of improving the outcomes of looked-after children and children with Special Needs.

I was delighted to be selected for interview with one of the three universities to which I applied for the Doctorate in Educational Psychology especially since, in 2012, there were 795 applications for 125 places. Although I didn’t get onto the doctorate scheme the first time round, I will continue to gain relevant experience until my application is successful; I believe my Masters from the GSOE will be good preparation for when I do begin my doctoral studies. If I had one piece of advice for students setting out on the same path as me it would be find a job you enjoy to pay the bills while you study. Competition for the Educational Psychology Doctorate is fierce and it may take several applications before you are offered a place on a course.