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Why would you make a great Teacher?

by Tahira Majothi on April 12, 2011

You probably have a sense of Déjà vu if you are reading this, given Fiona’s post last week on teaching interviews. I just thought that I would share some tips on what PGCE and FE course providers look for in applications, following a training session I attended at York University.

Teaching as you may be aware is an increasing popular career choice amongst graduates and career changers, as a result there is intense competition for places which means that you really do need to start by asking yourself ‘Why do I want to teach and why would I make a great teacher?’ Sounds obvious but you will need to demonstrate your passion for teaching, and convince providers that you do not just see teaching as a ‘safe career’ option.

The Teaching Information presentation I attended covered the PGCE (York offers secondary PGCE places) as well as changes in FE Education. A lot of these are still unknowns because of Government initiatives and consultations, so start your research by visiting the TDA or Learning and Skills Improvement Service LSIS websites for the latest.

Application tips for PGCE and FE courses:

  • Research your options, do you wish to teach at Primary, Secondary or FE level, and why would you be suitable to teach that age range?
  • Get some work experience with the age range you wish to teach. Arrange school/college visits and make sure it’s recent. (Ideally York prefer classroom observations made within the last year and require at least two days of classroom observations).  Some providers may want more substantial work experience, accumulating to around 2-3 weeks’ worth (check with the provider/s you wish to apply to).
  • Check the academic qualifications and eligibility criteria for PGCE courses, in the main Primary applications require you to have 2:1 degree and Secondary applications ideally 2:1 or 2:2 as well as GCSE Maths, Science and English grades at C or above.
  • Be flexible in terms of where you wish to study. Manchester is one of the ‘market stress’ areas in the UK i.e. where there is high demand for PGCE places. It is usually a PGCE Provider’s market, so make sure that your application fully meets all set criteria.
  • Make clear the age range you wish to teach. York University have turned down secondary applications in the past, as they have been better suited to primary courses.
  • Remember to draft the form in Microsoft Word first, check spelling, grammar and word count.
  • The academic reference is crucial, be sure to get the consent of your referee, explain what you are applying for and check to see if your referee will be around to fill in the reference, as the form will not be processed without it.
  • Module details – you will be asked to give details of your modules in percentages. You do need to make sure that they add up to a 100%! Think about which modules you spent the most time on and clearly demonstrate that your degree has 50% relevancy to the PGCE subject you wish to teach. Familiarise yourself with the National Curriculum.
  • Apply early! York University prefers applications by November for its secondary PGCE History course. Math, Languages and individual Science subjects are still the hardest to fill up across the UK, therefore higher bursaries are available for these subjects.

Read on for PGCE interview tips

If you have been successful in your application, you will be sent a letter inviting you to interview. The letter will set out how you will be assessed for suitability, and this again will vary between providers. Remember two key points:

First impressions do count, as does non-verbal communication. Make sure you dress smartly, as if attending a formal professional interview. Also demonstrate positive body language, the interviewers need to be confident that you can hold your own in a classroom and keep the attention of pupils.

Self awareness and skills awareness: Re-read your application, think about what skills are required of a teacher. Ideally in your application and interview you should demonstrate professionalism, enthusiasm, strong communication and organisational traits, an ability to reflect on own teaching and learning, resilience and creativity to name but a few.

Types of assessment:

  • Group task – this is usually centered on a news topic or a question about your experiences of teaching and teaching observations. PGCE providers look for you to demonstrate interpersonal skills such as teamwork, confidence, and the ability to include others in group discussions. You can also demonstrate skills such as leadership as well as diplomacy and persuasion.
  • Literacy task – e.g. a short piece of work from a pupil. Applicants will be asked to look at comprehension as well as spelling and grammar. You may also be asked to provide feedback to demonstrate whether you have potential to think like teacher.
  • Individual interview – make sure you re-read your personal statement. You may be asked questions on your experiences and/or the National Curriculum.
  • *Questions may also focus on the strengths and weaknesses of your degree against the curriculum i.e. what is on the curriculum that you have not studied, and therefore how are you going to build up your subject knowledge?
  • Typical questions also centre on how your work experience relates to teaching and how you would use it in schools? You may be asked ‘What are the components of a good lesson? Or ‘What was it about the teacher or teaching style that was effective or ineffective?’

*NB Questions are not exactly phrased as they would be at an actual interview and vary from provider to provider, year to year, but the themes are similar.

Overall the interviews are your chance to demonstrate that you have the potential attributes, values and professionalism to become a great teacher.

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