Meghan Hindle, Psychology Teacher (ECT)
In February, Psychology Subject Advisor Nicola Heath spoke to our Social Science PGCE cohort at Manchester Metropolitan University. Now we have successfully completed our teacher training and have embarked on work as Early Career Teachers I discussed with Nicola what I had learned from the experience. In this blog, I answer her questions and share key advice for upcoming psychology trainee teachers.
One of the biggest surprises to me was my huge growth in confidence by the end of Placement 1. I think everyone who is going onto a PGCE is bound to feel nervous at the start – thinking “how am I going to stand in front of a class and actually teach them?”. But it’s surprising how quickly it starts to feel almost natural. Your confidence seems to grow week by week and by the end of Placement 1 you don’t have the same concerns as when you started.
I would say there were two major difficult points in the PGCE:
My top tip for the first one is to start off small. Have a conversation with your mentor and start with the starter/and or plenary. This allows you to introduce yourself to the class and allows you to get a taster of what it’s like to stand at the front of the classroom without having to do a full lesson.
Placement 2 is very different. You won’t have the same nerves as placement 1 and you are now expected to teach more lessons. To stop this from feeling overwhelming, make sure to use pre-prepared resources so you’re not spending hours creating your own. These could be from your school/college, websites, peers, Facebook etc.
For OCR Psychology, there are plenty of free good quality resources on Teach Cambridge as well as delivery guides that give example activities.
I also suggest simplifying your lesson plans to ensure they help you to really get to grips with what you are teaching, how and why. These documents should work for you and be helpful before and during the lesson.
Speak with your mentor weekly to plan the next week’s topics so you can get ahead and start gathering ideas. You will want plenty of time to prepare and plan so make good use of your planning time whilst in school/college and try not to be too distracted by your colleagues!
A lot of people coming onto a PGCE course will be worried about workload. It is high but it is manageable if you get yourself into a good planning routine. When at university I would find out my assignment dates and details and have them written down somewhere clearly. I would aim to start all assignments at least a month before the deadline. This gives you time to tackle a section each week and make steady progress instead of being stressed and leaving it to the last minute.
In terms of teaching workload, I would make sure I had spoken to my mentor about expectations surrounding what documents they want to see from me before teaching a lesson and how far in advance they want to see them. Having these conversations early on allows you to plan more easily and meet expectations.
Overall, having a clear list of tasks has always helped me stay on track and I will continue to do this into my teaching career. It doesn’t matter if it is digital or paper-based, as long as you can quickly and easily update your progress.
My advice to trainee teachers who are feeling daunted would be to follow a stepped process:
To get students engaged with learning, my favourite task is retrieval grids, but I like to add competition to them. On the grid you will have different questions worth different points - harder questions worth more, easier ones worth less. Give the students some time to complete as much as they can (5-10 minutes), get them to mark the work and add up the points.
I then conduct a leaderboard of who has got the most points and update this throughout the topic. I usually have my leaderboard on the wall over the topic and then give a prize to the person on top at the end. You could use this as a starter or plenary for the lesson.
Another favourite is a task I called hot spot. Someone sits at the front of the class and they have a word behind them. They then ask yes or no questions to the other students in the class to see if they can get the word correct.
A group activity I like for high tariff questions involves putting the class into small groups of between three and five students. Give them different colour pens and get them to plan an essay together on A3 paper. This allows them to discuss points and bounce ideas off one another. I also like to photocopy the end result so everyone in the group has one.
Easy ways to recap that don’t require much effort is to make use of things already in the classroom such as a whiteboard. Write a topic or subtopic on the board and call students up to write one thing they can remember from it. This puts pressure on everyone in the room to remember something from the topic plus it also gives you an extra 10 minutes to get sorted!
Another quick way to recap the previous few lessons is to get the specification up on the board and go through each point and question students on each bullet point. This helps you understand what they know and what needs going over again.
I would suggest bookmarking the following:
I’d also suggest joining a Facebook group.
One of my favourite memories would have to be a student giving me a gift at the end of Placement A. It included a handwritten note about how I had been an inspiration to her and had helped her enjoy the subject as she didn’t like attending the class before. This just highlights how important being a teacher is. It really is a rewarding career that allows you to make a huge impact on an individual in such a short period of time.
In terms of expectations, make sure you are always professional. If you are coming into teaching straight from university (as I did) there probably isn’t going to be a huge age gap with the students which can be difficult to navigate. From the start, maintain a clear professional boundary and always be consistent with your expectations.
I would also recommend you get involved with as many trips you can. I was lucky enough to go on a number of visits including the UCAS conference, a safe driving conference and a water sports trip. Trips allow the students to see a different side of you and can allow you to build up the relationships with them. It’s also a great way to get to know more colleagues from other departments.
Have you got any advice to new psychology teachers? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at email@example.com call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @ocr_psychology. You can also sign up to subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
Meghan has a BSc in Psychology from the University of Manchester and recently completed her PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is currently teaching GCSE and A Level Psychology at a college in Bradford. In the future she hopes to become a Head of Department and start a Masters degree. She also has an interest in SEND and pastoral work surrounding children’s lives. In her free time, Meghan enjoys reading fantasy books, cooking and loves listening to podcasts.