For the past few years I've been researching various PhD and Doctorate programs in Education and finally I took the plunge and applied for the one that really stood out to me last November: The Doctor of Education in the University of Bath. To be honest I really didn't think I had much chance of being offered a place so only told a couple of friends. One being the Head of our Maths Department, Jason Murphy. He seemed keen too and we kind of pushed each other to actually follow through on all the chat and apply. In fact it was Jason who applied first and when I got that text from him that simply said "application sent" I knew I had to do it too.
The 6 week turn around deadline came and went just before we left for winter break so we both silently thought "oh well, at least we tried". But then, just a few days before the program is supposed to start I received an email from the University of Bath admissions team apologizing for the delay as a key person had been off for a month on leave. The email was an "unconditional offer" and they sincerely hoped I could get everything organized to join next week. I was absolutely ecstatic. This was something like a life long goal I'd set myself about 10 years ago and now it was going to begin. (Yes, I am aware there is the little matter of 4 years of study plus a Doctoral thesis still to come!!). So the last few days have been hectic filling of forms, registrations and emailing colleagues to ensure everything would be in place to cover my absence.
The best part though - Jason was also offered a place so we will start together... in 3 days time!! Luckily we both work in a school that supports us fully where getting the release time and class cover was never an issue. We have a really vibrant professional learning program headed up by Dr. Paul Magnuson and a new Educational Research department this year you can read more about here that is always there to help us and support us with improving our practice.
This is the common response I heard whenever I mentioned my desire to do a PhD to people who are doing a Doctorate or have done one already. Expect my business partner actually - the newly crowned Dr. Sean Foy of The Learning Curve Institute. He said what he always says "Do it man". Why do a Doctorate? Quite simple because I know I still have so much to learn. I want to be a better teacher. For me, engaging in professional learning and always trying to improve my practice keeps the job as exciting and makes me love it even more. Trying out a new approach, collaborating with colleagues about teaching ideas and discovering what the evidence and research says are all things that keep the job fresh and alive. I love teaching and I love learning and there are always things I know I can do better. I want to be better at my job. I want my students to be genuinely happy and love coming to my classes. I'm still a long way off achieving these elusive goals but hopefully the Doctorate will allow me to research some areas that will bring me closer to achieving them in the future.
Every year the Irish Teaching Council organize 'FEILTE' - the Festival of Education In Learning and Teaching Excellence where a mix of showcases and workshops spanning projects from across the education sector, demonstrate the innovation happening in teaching and learning at the moment.
This year the event took place on October 4th and I was lucky enough to be selected to present on my use of on-going feedback and specifically "How student feedback changed my classroom". The official title was "The Irish Abroad: A look at the action research projects undertaken by Irish teachers in a Swiss International School". My colleague, Dublin born Ronan Lynch, joined me and he started our workshop with an overall presentation on the professional learning programme here in our school. I then went on to explain how I use feedback in my class to increase motivation and student ownership of their learning by modeling various methods of feedback collection I use in my class.
Some of the most popular ones with the group were the really simple ones like "close your eyes and show me with your hands your understanding of how to give feedback. 1 finger being no understanding at all and 5 being that you consider yourself an expert". This is such a simple method that can be used at any time in the class to get into the heads of your students and find out what they really know or understand about a concept. It is also a very safe method for the students as they can safely say they have no idea without the fear of being ridiculed or feeling silly in front of their peers.
Another very simple method that the participants really liked was the 'one minute summary'. We actually did this with them at the end of our workshop where we asked those in attendance to write down two things they liked from the session and one burning question they had. The idea is they first see if the person next to them can answer their question and if not then the teacher can answer it in the next class. This can be adapted in lots of different ways but essentially you use the 'power of the post-it' to get some quick feedback from the class as to what methods are helping them and what they still need help with.
Please feel free to contact me directly for any further information on the use of feedback in the classroom. You can also check out the full Prezi by clicking here.
So I've just had my first day of classes today... and yes today is Saturday. Working at an International Boarding School certainly has its advantages but there are also some downsides every now and again. Having said that, it was just a short half day so the students can meet their teachers and find their way around the building so we are 100% ready for full lift off on Monday.
As I embark on a new year I've decided to try and log some teaching and research goals for the year:
I'm confident all of these goals are very achievable and I'm hoping just writing them here will encourage me to keep on top of them even more. If there are any other language teachers out there with similar plans for the year I'd love to hear from you and we can maybe collaborate and share our progress.