Learning Theories, Laughs and Library time

Almost 2 weeks into my PGCE and we have covered a huge amount of material at what feels like sprinting pace. I was worried 3 weeks in college wouldn’t be enough to cover all the background to learning theories, behaviour management techniques and all, the rest and I was right. The lectures are a fast-paced romp through the subject matter (often totally ignoring the ideas espoused in them for the sake of speedy chalk and talk).

Each lecture concludes with a list of 40000000 essential texts to read. The thing is, while some seem really interesting so do another 5 or 6 hundred books which I think would benefit me but aren’t actually on any of the lists and the days still have 24 hours.

Half and half: three course texts and three for fun

Half and half: three course texts and three for fun

Some things on politics of learning theories: I have been really interested in the lectures and references to learning theories as well as what i have seen in schools.  Some teachers seem to take the whole thing with a pinch of salt whilst others are evangelical adherents.  I need to read more (obviously!) But i am sceptical of the evidence base to these and can’t help wondering if they might be picked up with enthusiasm and then held onto tightly less because they actually describe learning well and more because they chime with preferred political  attitudes to education.  For example: the mindsets theory seems to me (health warning: more reading required) a good match for the ‘work hard and success will follow’ view of life, whereas that of Vygotsky leans more in the direction of an almost relativistic approach (potential learning determined by those around the learner)  and acknowledging the need to support learners in those tasks they may be able to do in time. I expect there are some good academic papers out there on this which i should read. Back to the library then!


On laughter: it seems like this learning to learn ’em lark is going to be a full and tough year, so I’m very pleased that my subject group seem to be supportive, knowledgeable and quick to laugh. Thursday subject pathway sessions are going to be full but fun I think!

And so it begins

Today was day one of my PGCE, spent observing in a school which will not be my placement school.  I saw lots of interesting things (possibly including a bit of pseudoteaching), met friendly and welcoming staff and fellow trainees and it’s definitely got me excited about what is to come.  There’s another day in a different school tomorrow and then college for the rest of the week.  But there’s something niggling: whilst I’m keen to get into the classroom I’m also a bit concerned that with very few college days before I am in my placement school (11 to be precise) there’s not going to be much in the way of learning theory actually covered.  I’m sure I should be reading all about it instead of typing this but I’ve always found a bit of heated discussion much more effective when it comes to getting to grips with ideas.  I hope that we will get a chance to discuss, for example, the role of class practicals and how they can be best used to facilitate learning (Alom Shaha has some interesting things to say about them here– and I really do want to make time to read the references he points to).

New year, new adventure, new ideas?  Photo: CC-BY (Christopher Sessums)

New year, new adventure, new ideas? Photo: CC-BY (Christopher Sessums)

There was just time to quickly pop down to the allotment for some emergency weeding and harvesting before picking up M from nursery.  While down there I met a chemistry teacher who is at the school partnered to the one I am going to be placed at (allotments are amazing places).  He asked me why, given the current situation in teaching, I wanted to go into it and said that he was frustrated with many of the changes he had experienced in recent years.  I said that kids are still kids. He grinned. ‘Yes’, he said ‘When I get into the classroom everything’s ok’.

Things happen down at the allotment.  Photo: CC-BY (Roger Muggleton)

Things happen down at the allotment. Photo: CC-BY (Roger Muggleton)

I think tomorrow I’ll just try to enjoy the day and suck what I can out of being in classrooms with kids and teachers who want to help them to learn.  And then get my nose into the textbook in the evening!