Tuesday, 29 May 2012
I recently completed the Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector (PTLLS) course which is a foundation teacher training course for teaching post-16 learners and runs for ten weeks as an evening class at my college. I knew a few other librarians who had done it and found it useful, and although I've learnt a lot on the job from my colleagues about teaching skills I really wanted to do something to bring it all together. Teaching isn't the sole focus of my job, but I've always felt a bit of a fraud standing up in front of groups and trying to teach them something with no formal background in teaching skills, particularly as teacher training is one of my subject areas!* The course is aimed at anyone who teaches or trains adults (or wants to) and we had a mixture of new FE tutors, an IT trainer, a medical army trainer, beauty therapists and people who hadn't taught at all, so there was always a wide variety of contributions and experiences.
The course covers things like schemes of work and session plans, equality and diversity, learning theories, engagement and motivation and assessment. You have to give a thirty minute 'microteach' session to the rest of your class and you build up a portfolio of assignments as you go along to hand in at the end (with lots of evaluation and reflection, of course). At each stage you're required to relate the theory to your own context and make it quite specific which was challenging in some areas where we don't traditionally have as much involvement, like assessment for example. It made me think hard about all of the areas needed for successful teaching and learning and where I could do more. I loved taking part in everyone else's microteaches where we looked at everything from massage and welding to VAT and gothic literature! The course was good for giving me the fundamental skills and understanding needed for teaching, and now the onus is really on me to put it all into practice. It was a lot of work to squeeze into a short space of time, and it was quite tiring doing an evening class as well as my normal late night and studying at weekends again, but I enjoyed it and I would recommend it to others who feel they need support in this area.
PTLLS is also one of the courses I'm responsible for, so it was great to see it all from a student's point of view (including having a library induction from one of my colleagues). In particular it emphasised something which I was already aware of, namely how difficult it can be for many people to get to grips with the usernames and passwords they need to log on to things, and how to access those things when they're at home. The library's online presence with links to all our resources and all of our information is on the college Sharepoint site, which we call the Portal, and students use their normal computer network username and password to access this and their email account. Then there's Moodle where the tutor puts course information, which they log in to separately. The network password expires every six weeks and has to be changed, but Moodle stays the same. Then there's an Athens username and passowrd for library databases, which is different again. I can completely understand how some students get in a muddle and frustrated by what appears quite complicated, particularly those who are less familiar with computers. There's been some interesting posts on the ARLG Jiscmail list recently about integrating library resources in Moodle and it's something I looked at in my dissertation too, and there's probably a whole other blog post in there, but it's just something that being properly amongst other students really brought home to me. Being on a short course doesn't help, but it's an issue for students at every level.
*It used to absolutely terrify me doing sessions for the part-time in-service PGCE cohort who were all already tutors at the college. Knowing something is definitely not the same as being able to teach it to someone else!