Jan 25, 2020
Episode 80 of The Teaching Space Podcast is about being a Master's student while working full-time in further education.
I believe there’s no better way to improve your teaching than to be a student as often as possible. It’s probably a good thing I hold this view as (a) part of my day job is leading professional development at my local FE college, and (b) I started studying for a Master’s in Education with the Open University in October 2019. In today’s episode, I want to tell you all about my first few months of Master’s study. If you are considering furthering your education in a similar way, then this episode might be a good starting point. If you are not, I still hope the episode is a timely reminder of what it’s like to be a student.
Because I work in FE there is no requirement for me to be a graduate. I have, of course, achieved my level 5 Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (known as DTLLS), followed by QTLS status (Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status) and most recently, ATS (Advanced Teacher Status). But, due to personal circumstances at the time, I never took the traditional ‘degree route’ into teaching. While I regretted not going to university and doing a degree from time-to-time, it never seemed to negatively impact my pre-teaching career progression. To be honest, it never really affected my career in education either.
However, as I mentioned earlier, my job current role is professional development lead, I am also expected to promote scholarly activity, as well as managing our teacher education provision. I felt a little unsure where to start in terms of promoting scholarly activity, so I began investigating degree courses with the Open University. After a few chats with my (very supportive) principal, who is currently working towards a PhD, I decided to find out whether the OU might accept me on a Master’s course. It turns out, they would.
I started a Master’s in Education in October 2019. There were various pathways available with the OU but I opted for leadership and management. This is not an obvious choice for me as I recognise that the higher in the organisation you go (e.g. faculty director, vice principal, principal) the less teaching you do, and I love teaching. That being said, I am in a leadership role and it was the only pathway to include the subject of professional development, so I decided to go for it. I am also interested in the role of ‘teacher as leader’.
In terms of universities, the OU was recommended by my government department (the body to whom I would apply for funding) so it seemed sensible to go with them. I was lucky enough to receive some funding support for the £9000 + fees (paid a year at a time so approximately £3000 a year).
It has only been a few months but so far, I am very impressed with the OU’s internet portal and, in particular, their online library. The course is very structured. You know exactly what you need to achieve every week. My tutor is accessible and the interaction with my classmates via our online forums is great. The workload is high. I’d guess around 15 hours a week, but I am managing through a combination of a few early mornings a week and some time at the weekend. I think I am spending the most time reading and trying to decipher challenging academic journal articles.
I’ve taken one study day already (my employer is very supportive of my professional development) and passed one assignment. The feedback from my tutor was detailed and supportive. I’ll have another assignment due over the next couple of months.
In the interests of full transparency, downsides of studying with the OU are that it is a lot of work. The reading is TOUGH. As a non-graduate I am also struck with imposter syndrome regularly (although this is all on me, not the OU!) I think all of this will get easier though.
My top three tips for teachers and trainers studying while working would be:
What about you? Are you studying at the moment? If so, what and how? I’d love to hear from you. Please listen to the end to hear about a new way to chat about podcast episodes.
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Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.