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Real-world teaching experience Education and teaching

“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

Albert Einstein

How to get teaching experience

Putting teaching theory into practice is how our students develop their craft. Taking what they’ve been taught in lecture theatres and seminar rooms into the classroom and workplace is what turns trainee teachers into actual teachers. Which is why we have developed partnerships with over 2,000 providers of education, providing opportunities – placements – for students to walk the walk.

If that sounds like sink or swim, though, it’s really not. We want our students to flourish, so we mentor and support students throughout the process, reflecting on successes and failures in order to make the changes that transform you into good educators.

“During a placement, trainees become part of the staff in a school, and are treated the same as other staff members,” explains Edge Hill’s Head of Partnership Development, Lorraine Partington. “At first it can be a little daunting, being in a new environment and knowing that you will have real responsibility, supporting the learning of pupils. However, trainees have a lot of support in schools, from their allocated mentor and from other teachers.”

While on placement in schools, our trainees follow a typical school week, working Monday to Friday, and following school policies. They receive all the information they need prior to placement, so that they can integrate into the school community.

How long do teacher placements last?

“Placements generally last several weeks, which may seem like a long time, but most trainees find their placements the most enjoyable part of their teacher training course, they’re initially allocated tasks to observe best teaching practice, see routines in practice, and encouraged to constantly ask questions.”

What does teacher training involve?

Trainees are attached to a nursery setting, a class in a primary school, or a form in a secondary school, and are expected to support the teacher with pastoral duties, such as monitoring the attendance and wellbeing of the pupils. To begin with they may be asked to work with small groups or support children on a 1-2-1 basis. Trainees become familiar with school routines, the school values, and policies such as behaviour and reward policies.

They are never alone, though, and the designated mentor is a key element of the trainee’s support system. Mentors help trainees build confidence and ability, meeting regularly, providing regular and constructive feedback, gauging when they are able and confident to take part of a lesson or attempt some team teaching with the class teacher. Core skills, like lesson planning, can be tough at first, so mentors are always there to provide support with this, checking over lesson plans, or providing ideas and example lessons. And there are many informal conversations throughout the week, to direct the trainee’s progress, or simply to listen to the trainee’s thoughts and questions.

Student views on teacher experience

“My first placement was at my old primary school – it was lovely to go back, but it felt a bit strange sitting next to my old Year 5 teacher in the staff room. I’ve had placements in schools in disadvantaged areas as well as in more affluent areas, and it’s been so interesting to see the different attitudes to learning and teaching, and the way you have to adapt your teaching in different settings.“

“My placements have been the most memorable and enjoyable part of my degree. I worked with three incredible schools and was blessed with amazing mentors that really guided me and gave me life long advice that I still use to this day. Don’t get me wrong, placements can be tough at times… but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

“Edge Hill provides absolutely amazing placements. With a vast number of schools, they have the facility to provide the perfect placement for you. There’s also the opportunity for you to partake in distant placements in the Isle of Man or Cumbria or to have a placement in Special Educational Needs school. Placements at Edge Hill really are brilliant by putting the student’s development needs at the heart of everything”

But how do trainees travel from sitting in the lecture hall one minute to delivering a lesson to 30 expectant pupils the next? How do trainees find the right place for them? As a leading teacher training provider Edge Hill has an established – and growing – network of partners in the education sector, which means we are able to offer students a wide variety of teaching experiences. What’s best for the student is key, and if possible, we will accommodate specific placement requests. Our partnerships team and our students have shown resilience and determination to continue developing skills and experience throughout the last 12 months. Lorraine tells us how virtual placements have been accommodated for students while learning took place outside the classroom:

“During the COVID 19 pandemic, all education establishments have faced some challenges. To overcome these, we worked together with our partner schools to create a virtual placement experience. Trainees were able to get to know their partner school by observing and interacting with teachers and pupils via live streaming. Feedback from trainees has been overwhelmingly positive and we aim to incorporate a virtual experience into our training for future trainees. Our partner schools really enjoyed the opportunity, too.”

An image of a teacher stood at the front of a classroom. There are multiple children with their hands up.

Karen Aliouane, Assistant Headteacher at Intack Primary School in Blackburn, said:

“I feel that a virtual placement is something that should be done especially for first year students as I think it helps them to broaden their horizons and see past the class bubble that they would be normally in. Being able to have the time to complete self-study tasks and find out the holistic approach that school has is a really good insight into school life”

Ultimately, we want your time with us to be the launchpad for your career, wherever that may lie. Trainee teachers focus on working towards meeting the professional Teachers’ Standards, which determine recommendation for QTS. They work with visiting tutors and their mentors to build a portfolio that enables them to progress to the next step of their journey. For many, including placement partners such as Ballakermeen High School on the Isle of Man, these experiences also represent real career opportunities:

“We’re always delighted to receive trainee teachers from Edge Hill, and many of them will be offered posts at the end of their placements, even if they’re not in their final year. We like to ‘talent spot’ trainees, and even if we don’t have a vacant post, we’ll share details with other schools.”

Mrs Burnett, Headteacher

Echoing Einstein’s philosophy, placements are the stepping stones to a successful career, but it’s your effort and dedication that will ultimately get you there.

More useful resources:

Frequently asked questions

What is teaching experience?

Teaching experience refers to the time prospective teachers spend in schools and classroom environments. It’s an opportunity for them to find out more about the profession, gain practical skills, interact with students and learn from other teachers.

How do I get started in teaching?

To become a teacher, you’ll need to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). A common way of achieving this is completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme which leads to a recommendation for QTS.

Learn more about PGCEs and PGDEs with Edge Hill, and see how to get real-world PGCE experience.

What are the benefits of teaching work experience?

There are plenty of advantages of teaching work experience, including:

  • It’ll give you an insight into what ages and subjects you’d prefer to teach.
  • You’ll gain a direct understanding of what a normal day is like.
  • Getting classroom experience will boost your confidence.
  • You’ll be able to learn from other teachers.
  • You’ll get practice interacting with pupils.
  • It’ll look good on your CV, and will be helpful when you come to apply for teaching roles.

June 5, 2022