Praise for Religious Education in the Secondary School
Comments from external reviewers of the RE PGCE at the University of Chester about James’ role
Feedback from the trainees I met again confirmed that another key element of the strength of the RE course is the level of commitment demonstrated by the subject leader and the extent of the support that he is prepared to give to individual students.
James places the student experience at the heart of his teaching and leadership. If things cannot be rationalised as being beneficial for the students then he seeks to find a better way that will support the students in the learning. Examples include the development of the professional programme in the Secondary PGCE. In the design of this James has striven to ensure that every task or session is designed to support students in their quest to become excellent teachers. He strives to provide an environment, both in the classroom and elsewhere, that draws the very best out of students and colleagues.
James’ work encapsulates the principles of effective knowledge transfer because his teaching is equally informed by research and practice. He provides his students with a careful and accessible balance of instruction that allows them to develop theoretical and philosophical perspectives through which to understand their practice. Through this, he has a positive impact on his students’ learning trajectories by opening up the possibility that they can build on their existing practice reflexively. His teaching publications reflect his practice, allowing his work to be disseminated to a wider audience.
James’ strives to find the students’ thinking about teaching in all aspects of assessment. He is adept in the discipline of noticing that characterises expert practice and models this for his learners and colleagues. He asks questions that prompt students to develop their practice and analysis, rather than resorting to telling them what to do. This constructivist approach allows his students to build on their current understanding, again merging research and practice to inform developments in teaching. The exit interviews used to provide a springboard for development in the students’ NQT year exemplifies this approach, because the student teachers are able to capture their strengths and the end of the course and have a clear articulation of areas for development in the next stage of their teaching.
As mentioned above, James is adept at modelling a democratic approach to beginning teachers’ development. This creates an environment of mutual respect and gives James teaching an authenticity that inspires the students to respond to. This is not only seen in their reactions to his teaching in the PGCE but in the frequency that they seek support from him once they leave the course and embark on their early teaching careers.