Category: Teaching

“Thanks MAC, but we should go further”

“Taking students out of the net migration target is not about fiddling the figures”

In light of the recent and long-awaited MAC report, director of Universities UK International Vivienne Stern says that the UK’s stagnant growth in international student enrolments has been an “active policy choice” and highlights the need for a clear, compelling and competitive post-study work offer.

Last week’s report by the Migration Advisory Committee confirmed what many of us in the university sector have long argued – that the benefits international students bring to the UK are enormous. The MAC team should be congratulated on some excellent analysis. But their conclusions were disappointing.

Now, attention has turned to the government response, and I believe there is a live debate between departments about whether to accept the MAC recommendations or go further.

The government should have the courage to do so.
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Finland: A view on one of the best university systems in the world

“Despite being a small nation, Finnish universities keep topping the world polls. So, what is it that they get so right?”

Finland is well-known for thinking outside the box in education, and its universities are no exception. The region’s focus on innovation appears to yield results, with Finnish universities recently ranked as the highest performing in the world. So, what exactly is it that they do so well? In my opinion, this can be roughly broken down into three broad categories.

  1. Strong support for quality teaching

Teaching is a respected profession in Finland, one that is extremely competitive to break into. Typically, fewer than 10% of applicants are accepted into the teacher training programme, five-year Master’s degree programmes are compulsory, and subject teachers are expected to carry out advanced academic studies in their field.

Finland’s teachers and lecturers are given great flexibility and freedom in their teaching styles too.

Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) embraces state-of-the-art teaching methods, for example, but teachers have autonomy for deciding how they are incorporated.  Mika Pulkkinen, an educational technology designer at LUT, says: “We offer a number of complex courses so we’re always looking for ways to help students cement their knowledge. We don’t want to insist on any single method of teaching, but we do make sure staff feel confident to use technology if they want to.”
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The benefits of studying the International Baccalaureate

“What has inspired me the most about the IB is its ability to encourage students to become internationally minded”

As students start to plan their future, choosing the right upper school curriculum is often a difficult decision to make. Faced with so many options, from A-levels to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or even the American Advanced Placement (AP) or high school diploma, the question is which one is the best fit for their abilities? And which one will more likely lead to a good degree?

I wish there was a simple answer, but it just depends on what type of student they are. Whether a good all-rounder who enjoys studying a wide range of subjects and rises to the challenge of investigative projects and exams like in the IB, or perhaps they are a more analytical mindset who prefers time to ponder their work with a curriculum focused on fewer subjects and graded more equally on coursework and exams like some A levels and the AP or whether no exams at all like the high school diploma.

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Inventor’s life could inspire business schools worldwide

“His passion for education and inspiring future generations to take a chance was legendary”

Trevor Baylis left school without any qualifications but went on to become one of Britain’s most renowned inventors. Kamal Bechkoum, head of business and technology at the University of Gloucestershire reflects on the mark that Baylis left on the world and what higher education institutions can learn from his genius.

I was tremendously saddened to hear of the recent death of Trevor Baylis OBE, creator of the wind-up radio that helped millions in the developing world access essential and life-saving information.

His passing marks not just the loss of a great inventor; it also offers an impressive life story that business, science and technology schools across the globe can learn from when encouraging their students to fulfil a need, doggedly protect one’s own intellectual property, or face down the seemingly impossible. 

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Youth around the world need higher education for a bright future, including refugees

“Working in a refugee camp requires addressing basic needs in addition to providing programs that allow for flexibility while holding students accountable to high standards.”

A graduate of Kepler, a program that works in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University to offer US accredited degrees to students in East Africa, Landry Sugira is an advisor in the Kepler Kiziba refugee camp.

When I was growing up, my parents used to ask me, “what do you want to be in the future and what does it require in terms of education to reach there?” I thought that this question was a bit ridiculous because I did not fully understand how important education can be. Since obtaining my degree and now working as an advisor in a higher education program, I understand why they asked that question.

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Recruitment agencies are the good guys in the UK’s teacher shortage crisis

“Britain has a teacher recruitment crisis. So far, so uncontroversial”

Rob Grays, Managing Director of Prospero Teaching, writes about the role that teaching agencies provide in addressing teacher shortages – despite the bad press they might get.

Britain has a teacher recruitment crisis. So far, so uncontroversial. It’s had one for years, but the government has suddenly decided that Something Must Be Done.

And it’s a global problem. The US has a teacher shortage, as do Australia and New Zealand. Even Hawaii!
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Rob Grays is managing director of the Prospero Group Ltd. Established in 2000, the Prospero Group continues to achieve award winning success across a variety of sectors, namely education, technical, IT, engineering and health & social.

I was a rookie teacher and had no confidence – so I came to London

“I was told I’d love it here and no account to book a return flight. Of course I didn’t listen and had to cancel it a few weeks later!”

Kimberley Poon, a supply teacher in London with Prospero Teaching, writes about making the big move from Australia to England to teach, and why braving the journey to the other side of the world – despite dubious encouragement from some of her friends – was worth it.

“Wow, you’re going to London!”

“If you can teach in London. you can teach anywhere.”

What would a translation app have made of my colleagues’ good wishes? “You’re crazy! You’ll be eaten alive by British kids.” Thanks, guys!

It was a fair point, though. Why was I leaving Australia straight after graduation to put myself at the mercy of the English education system – something I knew almost nothing about?

My last term at university in Melbourne had been a tough one for personal reasons. And in the education faculty, our heads had been filled with warnings about the near-impossibility of achieving a work-life balance in teaching. Burn-out was the risk, we were repeatedly warned: “Sixty per cent of you won’t make it beyond five years in teaching.”

Encouraging. Not.

I’d dreamed of being teacher since I was 13; it was all I had ever wanted to do. And I just knew that I was a prime candidate for burn-out. I would give it my all because, temperamentally, I didn’t know how not to.

I was in line for two full-time teaching jobs back home but decided half-way through my interviews that the right way into the profession for me was to work part-time as a supply teacher.

I needed to take it gently and start by boosting my confidence so I had more faith in my own abilities before I took the plunge in a full-time post.

By chance, I found a flier for a British-based teacher recruitment agency and got in touch. And I know I simply wouldn’t have come to the UK without Paddy, the recruitment consultant they teamed me up with in London.

I can get pretty anxious and at this point I was still dithering about whether or not it was a good idea to come to Britain.

Eventually, with much encouragement and calming of nerves from Patrick, I decided to come over – for three months. Patrick said I’d love it here and told me on no account to book a return flight. Of course I didn’t listen and had to cancel it a few weeks later!

So here I was in London, faced with the prospect of my first teaching post. I was still not feeling at all confident in my abilities – I had only just finished my teacher training, after all, and my final school placement in my last term hadn’t gone particularly well and had shaken what self-belief I had.

But straight away in London, I was already experiencing a new sense of independence and personal growth. Back home I lived with my family; here I was an adult building a new life in an unfamiliar city.

And I think London schools are incredible. It’s quite a shock being in such a complex culture, with so many accents to get used to. At home, the area I come from is not very diverse, so this is a new – and exciting – experience for me.

“At home, the area I come from is not very diverse, so this is a new – and exciting – experience for me”

And the range of school types in Britain is so different to Australia. I have taught in public schools (which are actually fee-paying and not free at all), free schools (part of the state sector but free of local authority control), academies (similar to free schools) and Church of England schools. It has been so interesting to see all the different ways teachers plan their classes and the approaches they take.

And as I acquired so much new experience in such contrasting types of school in a very short space of time, I began to find my feet.

Gradually, I began to feel I was missing out on the continuity of seeing the kids through the learning process. So for the last half term I’ve been doing a job share at a school where I’ve been doing supply cover for a while. And I’m working the rest of the week, too, in supply roles.

With the teacher over-supply situation at home getting worse, a lot of my friends have still not got jobs whereas here there’s as much work as I want.

Some of my friends in Australia are doing supply teaching. But, unlike me, their work isn’t guaranteed. In London, once I’ve said which days I’m available, the agency finds me work – or pays me off. It’s a win-win situation.

I’ve made life-long friends among other Aussies in London working for the same agency. We hang out together a lot. The agency let five of us take time off together to do a tour of the Baltic and Russia. It was fantastic.

So, having cancelled my flight home, I’ve been in the UK for two years. And I want more of it. I’m now looking for ways to stay on here. Any ideas?

Hawke’s Bay to London: supply teaching overseas and the time of my life

“In New Zealand, I was never going to get the kind of richness of experience that I’ve been exposed to in England”

Michael Day, International Candidate Manager at Prospero Teaching in the UK, writes on his experience of teaching in London and proving the naysayers wrong.

Hawke’s Bay to London: I’m not the first teacher to make the journey and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last. But now I’ve been here in the land of ‘pea-soupers’, top hats and Dickensian poverty (only kidding) for six years, I feel I’m ready to evaluate my experience and draw some conclusions.

So after two years as a music teacher what was the response of my NZ colleagues when I told them of my plans to settle in London? ‘Why would you want to do that?’; ‘You’ll get ripped apart’; ‘The kids are terrible’; ‘You’re mad’ were some of the more encouraging comments!

Luckily, I didn’t listen.

As for so many others, the decision to move to the UK was made easier by the fact I have family here: my parents are both originally from England and my brother lives here.

“For me, one of the main attractions of the English education system is the supply system whereby you can move from school to school, picking up new experience and ideas in a very small amount of time”

Career-wise, I seemed to have hit a brick wall. My problem was that I was struggling to find a job as a music teacher in NZ – and this was before the current problem of over-supply was anywhere near as bad as it is now.

My horizons felt very limited. For me, one of the main attractions of the English education system is the supply system whereby you can move from school to school in temporary roles, picking up new experience and ideas in a very small amount of time.

This could not contrast more with the situation in NZ. The system whereby each school – especially in rural areas – has its own own group of local teachers they can call on for supply cover meant that I was never going to get the kind of richness of experience that I’ve been exposed to in England.

When I started teaching in London, I was learning all the time from the different schools where I worked: I was meeting new teachers every day, swapping lesson plans, building up my own library of resources. I felt really energised and stimulated by the new environment.

But what about the kids? Well, what about them? Yes, there are challenging schools in London with challenging kids. But I’d taught in schools at home where there was no support to address bad classroom behaviour, where kids came from a very disadvantaged background and gang culture was prevalent. So no one can claim this is something that’s peculiar to London. And when you remember that there are more than double the number of people in London as in the whole of NZ, of course you’re going to come into contact with a far more diverse population.

“But what about the kids? Well, what about them?”

Coming to the UK can be a permanent career change. Or it can be the most fantastic overseas experience with career development attached. As a supply teacher you enjoy incredible flexibility, you can have days off whenever you want, you don’t do any lesson plans or marking – the work is simply handed to you when you arrive at school.

And you can leave the classroom on a Friday afternoon, head for the airport and be in Rome – or Paris or Athens or Madrid and hundreds of other amazing places – a couple of hours later.

But a word of warning: teachers in permanent posts work extremely hard in the UK. The education system has undergone a period of huge reform under the Coalition government in a bid to raise standards of teaching – and learning. Teacher training in England, too, is extremely demanding. Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is literally four times larger than mine was in NZ. And the amount of paperwork teachers have to do in England is, frankly, bananas.

“Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is four times larger than mine was in NZ”

But a word of warning: teachers in permanent posts work extremely hard in the UK. The education system has undergone a period of huge reform under the Coalition Government in a bid to raise standards of teaching – and learning. Teacher training in England, too, is extremely demanding. Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is literally four times larger than mine was in NZ. And the amount of paperwork teachers have to do in England is, frankly, bananas.

A recent survey shows that 73% of trainee teachers here have considered leaving the profession – mostly due to workload. But if teachers in the UK are being turned off teaching as a permanent career, the opportunities for supply teachers are even greater.

I’m now working for a teacher recruitment agency, helping people like me find the jobs they want and settle into new lives in the UK. I’ve had the time of my life – it seems unfair not to help other share the same experience!

Reimagine Education: how do we measure success in higher education teaching?

“There is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people… but its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down”

Martin Ince, Chair of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board, writes about how we measure success in higher education teaching.

What is higher education for? The answer depends on who you ask. For researchers, universities are the place where new knowledge is generated. For politicians, they are vital sources of innovation and economic growth.

But there is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people. Students may leave university with a degree that opens up a lucrative and satisfying profession, or they may have improved their minds rather than their earning power. They may be 21 or 91. But in either case, the key to their university experience is how well they were taught and how much they learned.

The only problem is that it is tricky to see how well this vital function of universities is being carried out. Higher education is still provided largely by “destination” universities using time-honoured teaching methods. But these techniques now exist alongside distance learning, and blended methods that use a mixture of these approaches. But whatever combination is in use, its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down.

“This issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale”

I chair the advisory board for the QS World University Rankings, and this issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale. Even within the UK, it is captured only indirectly, by surrogates such as student satisfaction. This does not work internationally, because a course that satisfies someone in Chicago might not go down well in Seoul. And we are well aware that despite the validity of traditional methods, teaching is being transformed by new approaches and new technology.

This is why QS was delighted to back the suggestion by Professor Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of our advisory board, for a global competition to recognise innovative approaches to teaching in higher education.

The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education has assembled a distinguished panel of judges from around the world to examine evidence-based claims for innovative approaches to higher education pedagogy. They welcome evidence of distance, presence and blended approaches to teaching, from any type of institution and in any subject. There may also be awards for the top innovations in specific regions or in subject areas.

A specific feature of Reimagine Education is that entrants have to show that students feel the benefit of the innovations they have made. They are encouraged to complete a student survey to prove the claims they make for their improved pedagogy.

We are sure from the response so far that Reimagine Education is timely. Please do spread the word about it, and consider entering yourself. The inaugural awards will be presented at a major conference at Wharton in December, and publicized heavily by QS and Wharton.

There is more about the competition, and our motivation for launching it, at www. reimagine-education.com. The site also has entry details and the timetable.

Using the internet to shape language teaching

As a French language teacher I am always looking for ways to better engage my students with the language and support their learning needs.

And as I work in a British university in China, teaching French to students from all over the world, using English as the instruction language, it can be a challenge to find an approach that appeals to all.

One thing my students do have in common is the internet and their ability to use it effectively. And as language teachers we should be harnessing this ‘Generation Y’s’ digital know-how.

The internet is changing how young people learn.

Young people today, for the most part, are more tech-savvy than they have ever been.

They are actively involved in the internet’s participatory cultures like joining online communities, producing new forms of creative work such as video or digital sampling, working in teams to complete tasks and develop new knowledge, and shaping the flow of information by creating blogs or podcasting.

Being literate today doesn’t just mean knowing how to read and write on paper, but knowing how to read and write across multiple media platforms – books, videos, social networks, blogs, text messages etc.

And being fluent in another language also means being able to navigate, and contribute to, these platforms.

How can these skills help us teach young people languages?

Alongside my teaching, I have conducted research into how the internet’s participatory culture can be used in student-centred learning environments and found that transmedia storytelling – telling a story across multiple media – can be an extremely effective method of teaching.

My research involved asking students to create multiple media products to investigate, and help others learn, lexical and grammatical teaching points in French, Japanese and English.

Once they had created their products, the groups then commented on others’ products using Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and blogs moderated by their tutors. They used these comments to improve their own products and to practice writing and reading in the respective languages.

The results showed that the students were able to create sophisticated media products ranging from multi-genre films to remixed songs and computer games, and that from the comments posted on the blogs, and elicited after the project, they had fun while also improving a number of important key competences that are often outside the domain of language learning.

I found that if well moderated, transmedia storytelling can provide students the opportunity to engage in projects that tap into their own experiences of social networking and digital creation.

Teaching the teachers.

The key to this, of course, is ensuring language teachers have the knowledge necessary to create these kinds of learning environments.

I recently shared the findings of my research, and trained secondary school teachers to use transmedia storytelling, at the V International Convention of Reading and Writing in Bogota, Colombia, which explored new ways of language teaching.

I found that the teachers who attended the conference from all over the world were keen to explore teaching methods that ensure the language skills young people are developing are relevant to them in the real and online worlds.

Meanwhile, my colleagues in the Language Centre  at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China are engaged in research and course development that investigate new ways of using technology to enhance learning.

It is really through our own continual learning, and sharing of knowledge, that we can hope to teach young people the language skills that will help them navigate the online world and achieve true digital literacy.

Filippo Gilardi, is a French tutor in The University of Nottingham Ningbo China’s Language Centre. For more information on his transmedia storytelling research contact him on Filippo.Gilardi@nottingham.edu.cn