The University of Wolverhampton’s third cohort of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) has celebrated completion of their teaching qualifications – getting full marks for employability.
The Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme was launched in 2014 and is a pioneering programme offering University of Wolverhampton graduates employment experience in an academic role for a fixed period of time while they study for a PGCE (Post Compulsory Education) qualification.
The students have just completed their studies and celebrated their achievements at an informal gathering at Wolverhampton’s City Campus.
Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme was inspired by the concept of moving away from the reliance of a teacher in the classroom towards teaching assistants who provide a broader bridge between teaching and other aspects of student life.
“Our aim was to mirror this concept at the University by offering graduates, across the breadth of all our faculties, the opportunity to work towards a teaching qualification whilst gaining valuable, hands-on work experience in an academic role. Our GTAs inspire and shape teaching and learning for students whilst at the same time providing vital additional support for students as well as faculty staff.”
Sarah Higgins, 27 from Aldridge in Walsall, found that studying for her PGCE in Post Compulsory Education as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) at the University of Wolverhampton was instrumental in securing her a full-time teaching job.
She said: “Teaching chose me, I didn’t choose teaching. I worked on a vast amount of modules, supporting 100s of students. I learned patience and resilience and the course really helped me with my people skills and organisational skills.
“The beauty of the GTA scheme is that you can put your learning into practice straight away. It’s got more value than just being out on a placement as you’re learning as well as working in the workplace.”
Sarah has recently performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in an Oscar Wilde play, Salome, where she performed the music live on stage. She has also recently secured a full-time position at Stratford-Upon-Avon College teaching music.
Graduate Teaching Assistants have also supported partners including University Technical Colleges, Academy Schools, Telford, Dudley and Wolverhampton colleges as well as supporting teaching staff at Aston University.
The GTA scheme is part of a wider research initiative to evaluate the impact on the student experience. Initial findings have shown that students have benefited positively from the support of GTAs - inspiring new ideas, shaping faculty teaching practices and providing a link between students and lecturers.
Student Focus Inspires Teaching
Hayley Mason, 26 from Cannock, actively resisted pursuing a career in teaching and was focused on becoming a Probation Officer.
After doing some voluntary work with the Probation Service in a mentoring role, she decided that she would explore other avenues and applied to work at the University of Wolverhampton in the Student Enabling Centre.
She spent a year working with students and it really inspired her to think about a possible career in teaching, which led her to apply for the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) course at the University of Wolverhampton.
She said: “I loved the course from the start. It felt really natural from day one and I learned a lot about myself. In particular, I really enjoyed my placement in a Further Education college which gave me a real sense of what a career in teaching might look like.
“The work placements on offer at the University really helped to open doors for me and I found that working with students was really inspiring.”
Hayley has secured a full-time job working at Newcastle-Under-Lyme College as a lecturer teaching A Levels in Psychology and Sociology.
Teaching Law Suits Zhara Better
Zhara Malik, 33 from Leicester, found that teaching law suited her better than actually practising it – and she switched to a career that fitted the bill
Having completed an undergraduate degree in Law, Zhara then went on to gain postgraduate qualifications from the University of Warwick and the College of Law. She worked in legal practice for a number of years in the area of family law, but felt it was the wrong fit for her. She missed education and being more academically-minded, decided to apply to become a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) at the University of Wolverhampton.
She said: “Even though I had a good, steady career in law, I kept feeling a strong pull towards teaching. I did enjoy elements of my job but it left me feeling incomplete and this led me to consider a career change. I realised that it is the process of teaching and learning, and having the space and freedom to think creatively about my subject that makes me happy. Helping students to realise their potential and sharing those 'lightbulb' moments is a wonderful privilege".
“The GTA role at the University of Wolverhampton helped to build my confidence and has shaped my teaching identity. The time I spent teaching and supporting students in the Faculty of Social Sciences was very fulfilling. Three years on, it’s a career that is still proving to be extremely rewarding and I am pleased that I decided to make the change because teaching law suits me much better!”
Zhara is currently a Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick. She leads the Constitutional Law and Human Rights and Criminology modules on the Warwick International Foundation Programme.