Carnegie Education

Finding a Passion for Play

Jess Gosling writes how her experience of the Masters in Childhood Studies and Early Years has provided inspiration and influenced her personal and professional lives. 
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"I have been an educator now for more than 10 years, both within the UK and internationally. The PGCE I had taken at another university in order to qualify as a Primary School Teacher had left me shattered and unmotivated by further post graduate learning. However, after a teaching post in Reception, I decided that Early Years was really the area I wanted to teach, yet I knew I had gaps in my knowledge in terms of child development and the pedagogy of Early Years.  After having a child, I decided that both professional and personally I wished to learn more about Early Years education. Therefore, I researched Masters degrees available in the U.K. through online learning, as I was then living in Vietnam. I contemplated an Education Masters and then the Childhood Studies and Early Years Masters available at Leeds Beckett. When I compared the modules, it was clear to me that the Masters on offer at Leeds Beckett would be far more suitable. It was not my interest to study educational policy or even leadership, which the Education Masters seemed to promote. Instead I wished to gain an in-depth knowledge of issues within Early Years and an understanding of Play. 

These modules leapt out at me when I looked at the prospectus. However, I felt nervous moving away from an Education Masters feeling that this would perhaps make more employable or somewhat better qualified. Whilst I was pondering this, I sent a quick message to an old Head and good friend. I asked him which he would find more valuable. He replied without a doubt, the Leeds Beckett Masters, as it offered a depth of knowledge within a specific age range, which a Masters in Education would not. So my mind was made up and applied to Leeds Beckett and was accepted.

This Masters, so far, has led me down avenues I could not have envisaged.  At the time I was raising my little girl (she was 2 when I began study) so I would drop her at Nursery then squeeze my lectures and reading in the two hour time-frame. I would work most evenings until the late hours. However, I can count on one hand how many times I felt reluctant to begin work. I soaked up the learning, I felt empowered knowing so much more about my subject area. I savoured articles and the access I had to research gave me the confidence to develop and later argue my beliefs. As the course developed I found I had a love for Narrative Research. Initially it terrified me;  writing my own experiences as research? I felt it was a too subjective option. I worried that perhaps the module leader may not like my writing. However, the module allowed us to practise writing. Each piece I wrote received excellent feedback and when I compared my work with others’, mostly I felt it was really good. I seemed to have a talent for it. Moreover, I really enjoyed writing and the more I read of this kind of research, the more valuable it felt. So much so, I disregarded my original idea of a literature review and decided to complete an Action Research Project using Narrative Research.

This marked another stepping stone in my life. I created a Parent/Child group in my local area in Vietnam which had never yet existed. As I studied several children for the project, I found I educated parents of the group in the value of play. The research project had so many ‘wow’ moments and twists and turns when the period of study came to an end I didn’t want it to stop. By researching children alongside their parents’ input I learnt so much more about them, it was quite a game-changer for me.

When I came to apply for full-time work as an Early Years teacher again, it was this project that excited the interview team the most. My passion came alive in the interview, whereby I confidently discussed how I had applied my Masters within this research. And I got the job!
I feel my time learning online with Leeds Beckett has helped me develop myself not only in becoming a better teacher, but also a more empowered person. In addition to a greater confidence delivering the pedagogy of Early Years, I feel that writing narratives has re-ignited my interest in Writing. I have begun my own site where I blog about issues within Early Years and also discuss my experiences as an International Teacher. This is all in development, but I hope to make a ‘how to’ to help those teachers who want to teach in other countries but don’t know where to start. 

I believe now I am capable of so much more and I push myself into situations I had perhaps not felt ‘good enough’ to. For example, only today, two years on from completing the Masters, I suggested I deliver Early Years training within my school for Teaching Assistants and for those not experienced within this pedagogy. In my future, I have thoughts of  applying to teaching in a college or university, leading and lecturing others. Prior to studying at Leeds Beckett I would have not had the confidence to consider this. My work on my Masters helped me believe in myself I feel by getting strong positive feedback and finishing with a distinction, I could believe I truly am good at what I love to do. I won’t ever forget the one night waiting up until 12 o’clock midnight (due to the time difference between the UK and Vietnam) to see my double module mark of 90 percent. I couldn’t believe yes I really could achieve this and yes I really was that good. It was suggested during the Masters that I consider a PhD. Of course, this idea terrifies me but instead of ruling it out I now think, maybe one day..."

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