After many years as a languages teacher, I arrived at the Graduate School of Education (GSoE) in September 2010 as a new and somewhat apprehensive member of the PGCE teaching team. I had been encouraged at interview to consider taking a Masters in Education and explored this option soon after arriving. As my own PGCE was taken too long ago (i.e. over five years ago), I did not qualify to transfer the 60 Masters level credits I obtained from my PGCE into a Masters programme at the GSoE. This option is now available to student teachers who have completed a PGCE in Bristol or at other institutions. I decided to take what was then called the MEd Individually Constructed Programme and which is now known as the Teaching and Learning Pathway. I chose this option as it offered the flexibility that would best enable me to study issues aligned to my own professional role.
As a new member of Teaching staff at the University of Bristol, I was required to take the Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (TLHE) programme (now called CREATE). This was a Masters level professional development course for teaching staff in Higher Education. I obtained 60 Masters credits by taking the TLHE programme, which I then transferred into the MEd Individually Constructed Programme. This effectively formed the first year of my MEd. In the second year I took three units, each worth 20 credits. The first of these was an Introduction to Educational Inquiry unit which gave me a solid grounding in the field of educational research; we were asked, from week one, to work in groups and design a mini research project which we subsequently wrote up and presented to the other members of the group. I then took a unit in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) which was closely aligned to my own background as a teacher of languages. For my third unit, I completed a SIS (supervised individual study) which allowed me to explore in depth theories surrounding the development of student teachers; another area with which I was professionally directly involved. The third year was the year of the dissertation. I decided to explore one of the key issues within language teaching, namely the use of the target language in classrooms and my student teachers became the willing subjects of my research. My dissertation was handed in to be bound in September 2013; a day which I will always remember!
Completing the Masters in Education course here at Bristol was an incredibly enriching experience and my only regret is not embarking on it sooner. I could compile a long list of the benefits, but in the interests of brevity, I will highlight just three things. Firstly, the course was an educational balloon ride (an analogy which is perhaps pertinent in the light of Bristol’s annual hosting of a balloon festival)! It enabled me to look down and explore my own professional practice in a wider context, linking it to research. I will confess that as a busy full time teacher, previous engagement with research had been somewhat minimal. I had had strong inklings of the ‘what’, i.e. what tended to work in the classroom and what didn’t; my study on the Masters programme gave me a much greater understanding of the ‘why’ and it therefore equipped me for me new role as a PGCE tutor. Secondly, the course gave me the opportunity to meet other professionals from a wide range of countries; if you come to study for a Masters’ degree here, you will truly appreciate the diversity of the student body! From doing research with a Greek English teacher to group work with teachers from South Korea and China, contact with such a variety of professionals was an element of the course from which I learned a great deal and which made me question much of my own practice. Thirdly, as an educator myself, I found the quality of teaching and support on the course second to none. Taught units were highly engaging and relevant, and dissertation support was excellent, taking me through the process in manageable steps. The course was certainly a challenge, particularly as for most of it, I was in a full time role. But I would unhesitatingly recommend it to any who wish to broaden their horizons, gain a better understanding of their own professional practice or progress academically or professionally.