PGCE Do’s and Don’ts

This article originally appeared on Cassidy Education Blog

Hey guys, I am back. Sorry I missed out on you, but I have gone to the Philippines to fix some banking papers I need for summer as I cannot open a bank account here. It was a strange sensation going back home but I’ll explain it in another post. It got too busy and my mother got attacked by a dog :-/

As i am back and it’s school day tomorrow, let’s go back to the academe. Cassidy Education did another fantastic post and I bookmarked it for future speeches and as a daily pick-me-up when work gets too boring or difficult. PGCE is your ticket to becoming a teacher under UK law. It’s not easy but many people do it! Here are some pointers for you to consider when undertaking such a role.

PGCE: Cassidy Education Do’s and Don’ts!

So, you have decided to complete your PGCE, first thing you need to consider – it won’t be easy.  In fact it is a hard and intensive course, especially when you consider the academic requirements alongside working on the job, it can be quite a daunting prospect. Of course, it is likely to be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. You will experience newfound skills firsthand, whilst making life-long friends as well as finding out your new passion for work – in a job you actually love doing.

How you tackle the PGCE year is ultimately your choice but we’ve laid down some of our recommendations – here are our do’s and don’ts:

Teaching Practice:

As the heading suggests, the PGCE placement is for you to ‘practice’ your ability as a teacher.  You are not expected to be the ‘finished article’ and perfect at everything, no one expects that. What they will expect is for you to be:

  • responsive to constructive criticism
  • well prepared
  • a hard worker
  • improving
  • a team member
  • able to learn from mistakes

Understand that you will improve and gain confidence quickly, make sure you give yourself the time you need to learn and practice your craft. Remember, this is your chance to guage yourself as a teacher and how you want to progress.

Top tips: Observe your peers, inside and beyond your subject. Get involved in the after school activities, leave your comfort zone from time to time – you’ll be surprised what you may learn.


Even if you found your university degree a breeze, be assured you will find your PGCE assignments demanding. This will be more so for graduates from an engineering / technical background, as they may be less used to writing reports or long, drawn-out essays.  If this is you do not worry, help is at hand!  Universities usually have great support for helping with reading and writing skills – make sure you use it!

The Standards:

These are the Teachers’ Standards for use in schools in England since September 2012. The standards define the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded qualified teacher status (QTS).

The Teachers’ Standards are used to assess all trainees working towards QTS, and all those completing their statutory induction period.

We are confident the last thing you want to do is spend your weekends digging through your work trying to catalogue everything for a check on Monday morning. You will be well advised to collate your work for each of the sections as you progress through the year. Your mentor will check on your work from time to time, and you will want to demonstrate a well-organised and presentable system. We recommend that you file your work weekly; this will surely save you many lost weekends.


It can take time to adjust to an expectation of ‘professionalism’ especially if you are fresh out of university. You will have to quickly become accustomed to it however, as students, teachers and parents will all expect you to be professional in everything you do, and it’s essential for a successful and rewarding PGCE year.

You will demonstrate your professionalism through your knowledge and understanding of your subject(s), the learning process, your values and the development of you and your students.

Top tip: If in doubt, ask your peers, tutors and mentors for guidance, they will only be too happy to help.

Life Study Balance:

Make sure you find a balance between your PGCE and other things you enjoy doing, don’t give up your life; you’ll gain a lot more from the course that way!

Remember to:

  • find time for family and friends.
  • invest in lots of stationery (especially lever-arch files)
  • manage your time and stay organised
  • be creative, patient and flexible

A Guide to Game-Based Learning

I am a fan of game-based learning. It makes the class fun not only for my kids but for me too. This makes the classroom more inviting and therefore more conducive to learning for the children.

I like games not only because it’s enjoyable in its barest sense, as play. Games in the classroom are so much more than that. They can be cues for assessment, especially in the children’s listening skills and following instructions. Games make way for cooperative learning too as they compete, create and share with other children for winning a prize – which also instills a value of goal setting, industry and teamwork.  It channels creativity because some games need to have creative strategies for teams to win! For me, gaming is the way forward, especially when you have an internet connection.

For you folks out there who share my gaming sentiments, this next article would be fantastic. As my teacher told me before, share the good things to your friends, and that’s what I’m doing now.


A Guide to Game-Based Learning

by Vicki Davis, originally published here

You want students to learn. Shall we play a game?


But what is a game?

Game: a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.

Is Game-Based Learning the Same as Gamification?

Not exactly. Gamification is “applying typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.” Great classrooms often use both.

Every day in my classroom, I’m using the essentials: gamification elements, reward systems, and game-based learning. I’ve already covered 5 Ways to Design Effective Rewards for Game-Based Learning. Let’s learn how to pick the games.

Understanding Games

Powerful games in the classroom often include:

  • Multiple levels or challenges
  • A compelling or intriguing storyline
  • A personalized, unique experience for each learner
  • Rewards such as unlocking certain capabilities based upon achievements
  • Additional rewards and feedback from the teacher or classroom.

Tools to Analyze Game-Based Learning

As you choose games, you’ll want to mix up the games you use. These tools will help you analyze which works for you.

Computer Games vs. Simulations

Computer games are often fantasy based. Simulations are a form of computer game that simulates something happening in real life. Both are useful.

A simulation might have students dissect a body online, while a computer game that teaches the same thing would be Whack a Bone. Both can teach the bones and parts of the body. Dissection is more realistic than the game to “whack” the proper bone.

Single- vs. Multi-Player

In a single-player game, each student plays as an individual. There may be a leaderboard at the end, but they aren’t playing against or with other players inside the game.

Multi-player games include other players as either competitors or teammates.

For example, the AIC Conflict Simulation from the University of Michigan is a multi-player simulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Students play the role of world leaders, and their mentors are grad students at the University of Michigan. Every single game is unique. The learning experience is powerful.

A single-player game, PeaceMaker, also simulates the Arab-Israeli conflict — however, it’s just the student against the computer. There are no unique elements determined by other players in the game, just the software.

Single-player games can be easier to play and coach, but I’ve gravitated toward at least one multi-player simulation per school year per course. Multi-player simulation environments require higher-order thinking. Students are analyzing, creating, and having to deeply understand their topic.

One of my favorite methods to amp up single-player games is creating teams. For example, using the typing speeds of my students, I create teams with the same average typing speed. These evenly-matched teams play their favorite typing game, Baron von Typefast. We add up all the scores, and the winning team receives a medal (as I play Olympic music). I’ve seen my eighth graders wear these all day long!

One-Time vs. Persistent Games

One-time games make fun bell ringers. Every time a student logs in, he or she starts over. A persistent game is a permanent game environment where the student achieves over multiple playing sessions.

Right now, my ninth graders are participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. In this persistent game, they have to create a budget, pay bills, and save money on the salary of a person who is just six months out of college. It goes along with the real calendar and will last from October through December. (Students can win real cash scholarships, which makes it even more intense.) If you coach a persistent game well, the game itself becomes the reward.

While students are playing the simulation game, I am still teaching with one-time games. This week I used a Tax Bingo game where students fill a bingo card by getting answers from their classmates. (Think of it as a massivethink-pair-share.)

Real-Life vs. Electronic Gaming

You can game in the physical classroom. Some gamers call this RL (real life) or IRL (in real life). For example, I invented an accounting game to use with a physical Monopoly board. As my students entered debits and credits, they produced financial documents. While electronic games are fast and easy, the physical classroom is a powerful place to use game-based learning.

Thematic Games with a Storyline

Some teachers like Michael Matera are using game-based learning every day. Every student is in a “house” or “clan,” and these groups compete for points all year long. (See Gamification in Education for more about this model.)

Preparation vs. On-the-Fly Game Play

Some formative assessment tools or games like Kahoot! require some preparation ahead of time. Socrative, another formative assessment tool with built-in games, has some “on-the-fly” tools that let teachers ask for answers without preparation.

Feedback vs. No Feedback

Teachers need data on gaps in knowledge. Many of today’s educational “games” have no feedback for parents or teachers. Look for games with good teacher feedback systems.

Where Do I Find the Games?

If you want to find great games, I recommend the Gamifi-ed wiki that my ninth graders compiled with the Master’s program students from the University of Alaska Southeast. (As an aside, we found a major disconnect between recommendations by app stores and the games that are actually the best for learning.)

Additionally, sites like Common Sense Media and Free Technology for Teachers are always featuring new games and simulations.

Game-Based Learning

Games have always been in the classroom, but improvements in technology have launched us forward. Not all games are alike, so be smart — but GAME ON!