Literature Study Post-16 II
Enabling student teachers to develop the confidence and skills to teach post 16 English literature is perhaps as difficult now as it has ever been. The recent introduction of new specifications may have reduced the number of assessed modules, but it remains difficult for student teachers to have the time to take on sustained teaching at this level in placement schools. Understandably, classroom teachers, possibly teaching students facing assessments as early as January of Year 12, are reluctant to hand over classes. Many ITE English courses are now officially described as 11-16 courses (with Post-16 enhancement). With the difficulty of being able to guarantee sustained A level teaching, many institutions may prefer not to run the risk of falling foul of the inspection process. Additionally, there is precious little space during university-based sessions to address the area; the ground to be covered on an English ITE course seems to grow with each new educational initiative.
A level literature teaching, too, can seem particularly daunting to student teachers. This may be in part due to a mythology created around A level teaching that there is something fundamentally different about it, that it is a particular intellectual challenge, and that it takes some years of experience to be inducted into its practices. But there are other issues. More than one young student teacher typically those who go straight from school to university to teacher education have talked to me simply of feeling not much older than an A level student themselves, and of finding it difficult to create the necessary distance in the classroom. One student teacher I taught once wrote in his reflective journal of his lack of confidence in establishing the 'correct level of formality' in the A level classroom.
Yet post-16 literature teaching is, or will be, for many one of the great joys and privileges of English teaching as a career. In the limited time we are able to offer the topic on our course, I draw on experience as A level teacher and examiner in an attempt to engage student teachers with the key issues, and encourage them to have the confidence to seize post-16 teaching opportunities. Additionally, we make use of the expertise of teachers in our partnership schools who are engaged on a day to day basis in the practice of effective A level work.
The key issues, to me at least, seem to centre around:
- Subject content and student teachers' subject knowledge
- Teaching and learning approaches
- The AS/A2 cohort
In these pages I shall simply attempt to illustrate the issues as I find them and share some of the approaches I have used to address them with my student teachers.