A Trip by the Master’s Degree Program Staff to the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom

A Trip by the Master’s Degree Program Staff to the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom

Last year, we visited the University of Bristol in England, together with a graduate of the master’s degree program. During the visit, we met with the head of the master’s degree program and the staff of the school of education, and visited two municipal schools.

Teacher training in England is different than in Israel and in European countries. A decade ago, the Department for Education in England decided to transfer teacher training to the schools, thereby enabling students to become acclimatized to the school culture. Every student is assigned to a teacher coach, and two thirds of the students’ study hours are spent in the school. Some of the schools provide the students’ academic studies by themselves, while others collaborate in the establishment of centers outside the schools, in which lecturers from the university are invited to teach academic courses. This model of training has advantages, but also more than a few disadvantages. Mrs. Jean Doureen, head of master’s degree studies at the University of Bristol, noted that many teacher coaches lack expertise in pedagogic instruction. As a result, the students did not receive training at the desired level. Dissatisfaction with this training model has created a stormy dialogue in both universities and in the country at large.

During our visit to Bristol, we visited two schools that particularly impressed us. One was a high school in a prestigious neighborhood, where the students come from families with a high socioeconomic status. The other was an elementary school in an immigrant neighborhood with a low socioeconomic status. What both schools had in common was their emphasis on well-being programs. In the high school, a program called “Open Houses” was in operation. In this program, the students spend the first 20 minutes and the last 10 minutes of each day in a multi-age class of 30 students and a teacher. The goal is to instill a feeling of community at the school. The morning sessions are devoted to activities such as imparting strategies for reducing pressure, for example through yoga exercises. The teachers also bring up subjects for discussion, such as pressure from examinations, and talk about ways of dealing with it. In addition, the teachers encourage the students to bring up subjects that are troubling them, for example topics about studies and about society, topics about life in school and at home, and so forth. The last 10 minutes are devoted to the connection with the students, in order to hear about their experiences during the school day, and especially whether there were any unusual events, so that those could be dealt with suitably and at the right time. A similar program also exists at the elementary school. The deputy headmaster of the elementary school told us that she, the headmaster, and the teachers regularly wait for the students at the entrance at the beginning of the school day and at its end in order to greet them. The aim is to create an informal connection between the children and the adults. One of the activities we took part in was a sing-along with all of the school’s children. The children sang songs with optimistic messages in the spirit of positive psychology and education for tolerance.

We met teachers in both schools in the teachers’ room and spoke with them about the work of teaching and education. They showed interest in what was being done in Israel, and contrary to the prevailing image of the English as closed people, the teachers were friendly to us. The social atmosphere in the teachers’ room of the elementary school was also reflected in the bulletin board hanging on the wall with many notes of appreciation that the teachers had written to each other.

At the university, we met with lecturers and discussed computerization and pedagogy for effectively instilling the advanced technologies. From the meetings at the university and at the schools, we learned that there is a trend towards preferring a transition from stationary computers to iPads. The reason is that stationary computer labs require classrooms, and the technology quickly becomes obsolete and requires maintenance. In addition, successful prescheduled personal meetings were held, and these were devoted to our research fields. In this framework, it was decided to continue professional and research collaboration.

To summarize, the visit to the University of Bristol expanded our professional ties with colleagues, and we regard this as a contribution to both the students and the College. The visits to the schools introduced us to the school culture, and enabled us to gain many insights, including the emphases in the teaching and in the study programs.

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המכללה האקדמית לחינוך ע"ש קיי בבאר-שבע, בע"מ
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