Leeds Beckett University has been running a successful Distance Learning PGCE for three years, mainly focussed on working in partnership with school centred teacher training providers (SCITTs). Last year however we started to notice some interest from experienced teachers working in international schools abroad.  We enrolled a highly committed, qualified and experienced teacher who teaches in Sweden and from this experience we began to see more and more the potential for marketing our course abroad. Several universities offer teacher training routes for those who teach abroad, but we believe that ours is unique in that it offers the opportunity to gain a PGCE via a distance learning only route without the requirement to be assessed in practice. We ensure that all our applicants have access to a formal programme of professional development in their school so that they can apply the theories and models from the course and critically reflect on their practice. They complete the same assignments as trainee teachers but are able to set these in the context of their current knowledge and experience.

Our research told us that many teachers find themselves teaching abroad in international schools having spent time travelling. They settle in a country, gain a teaching post and then find that when they apply for other teaching jobs they miss out on their dream job because many English speaking international schools require their teachers to have a PGCE as well as a qualified teacher status. Some of these teachers are English nationals who may have gained their qualified teacher status in England through a route that does not offer a PGCE. Others are foreign nationals who see the benefit that a PGCE brings to their career choices.

Once we welcomed and settled our current students, we found out a little about them and their amazing journeys into teaching. This year we are thrilled to be teaching students from countries ranging from Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, Luxemburg, Portugal, Malaysia, South Africa, and Vietnam. That is six continents! They are all experienced teachers, teaching in English speaking Early Years, primary and secondary schools.

Our ‘usual’ cohorts are trainee teachers teaching in England. They are enrolled with a SCITT on a QTS programme, and we offer the distance learning PGCE alongside. We currently work in partnership with Rochdale Pioneers Partnership, Ripley TSA and Equalitas and we are keen to extend our partners both in the UK and internationally within the English curriculum. Although it is a separate qualification, we work hard to make sure that there is synergy between the two courses. We believe that the global perspective on teaching and learning has enriched the conversations and discussions in our innovative G+ professional learning community, and that everyone gains from the diverse perspectives. It certainly makes for insightful and rich assignments!

So what goes on in our course?

Our Students

We are always impressed with their final assignments based around an enquiry into their teaching. These are a flavour of the sorts of projects from last year:

  • The effect of mathematics interventions for pupils with place value misconceptions
  • How does teacher guided peer assessment impact on students’ motivation and engagement?
  • The effects of extracurricular SATs boosters on children’s’ progress and confidence in tests
  • The impact of engaging underachieving boys to write in outdoor play sessions
  • Can whole class feedback sheets aid pupils in becoming reflective and self-aware learners

All of their projects are research informed, and critically engaged with issues that affect their school and their practice. You can see how the ones above are highly relevant and focussed on their own contexts.

For our trainee teachers in England we look forward to seeing many of them on our NQT module the following year as they begin their first year of teaching. We also hope that some will consider progressing to one of our Masters courses in Education or Childhood Studies and Early Years. They will have 60 master’s credits to take with them!

Our Team

We have completed a systematic literature review into the effective use of social media in initial teacher education. This study should really help to inform our future developments on the course. Already it looks like we are ahead of the curve for our innovative approaches to participation. Our students have the opportunity to engage with us both inside the course and across social media spaces such as twitter and Google+. Our PhD student is carrying out research into social media as informal CPD, and you can find her on twitter - @dianatremayne. This is exactly the sort of modelling of 21st Century skills that teachers need to experience in order to develop in their own practice.

Our online learning tutors are making a name for themselves presenting at conferences related to their interests in academic skills development. They are also busy preparing resources to support the course with everything from getting logged on to writing and reflecting at master’s level.

Dr Alison Iredale is working in partnership with a Finnish University finding ways to make Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with them.

Follow us on Twitter for news, resources and conversations: @dlpgcelb

Why Distance Learning at Leeds Beckett University?

At Leeds Beckett, we are very proud to be ranked 1st in the UK for our virtual learning, online library - Offsite, and technology, and our distance learning programmes are fully supported by an extensive range of expertise; from the team of professional Instructional Designers who develop them, to our academics who create and deliver the course content. We also understand that students often need additional support, especially when working in a new or unfamiliar way, so we employ Online Learning Tutors to provide help and assistance directly to the student. We also offer 24-hour access to learning materials, with all the convenience and flexibility that distance learning brings.

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