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English Degrees in FE Colleges HE in FE Networking Day June 13 2008 Candice Satchwell Lancaster University/Blackpool & The Fylde College HEA English Subject.

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Presentation on theme: "English Degrees in FE Colleges HE in FE Networking Day June 13 2008 Candice Satchwell Lancaster University/Blackpool & The Fylde College HEA English Subject."— Presentation transcript:

1 English Degrees in FE Colleges HE in FE Networking Day June Candice Satchwell Lancaster University/Blackpool & The Fylde College HEA English Subject Centre

2 Different models for English degrees in FE colleges Outreach model: University degree programme delivered by University staff in FE colleges Franchise model: University degree programme, taught by college staff in first year, then at HEI in second and third years Full degree delivery: Full degree designed and taught by FE staff in FE colleges – with support from validating university Joint honours programmes

3 Advantages of college designing and teaching own degree: Understanding strengths and issues for potential students Working with strengths of available staff – usually a small team Enabling creativity within and across modules In English degrees, integrating language, literature and creative writing both in design and in teaching

4 Lecturer’s view: “The English degree was unusual in conception and development. We sat for a long time thinking about what we as English specialists – what would we like to do as a degree? We’d like to know how the language works; we’d like to see people using it really well; and we’d like to have a go ourselves. We were very fortunate because we weren’t tied by what was already there as in a traditional university – all with their own histories. We kept the three strands and worked with them simultaneously. If we looked at something, say metaphor in language, then we’d look at metaphor in literature, and write using metaphors ourselves. Although we’ve blended the three strands together, the individual tutors have retained their subject strengths.”

5 Examples of blending: studying Stylistics modules – e.g. Blackburn College has substantial stylistics modules across Years 1 & 2; studying Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls in a literature module, and examining features of natural and dramatic conversation in a language module which runs in parallel; reading Wuthering Heights in literature, and looking at narrative structure in both language and writing; studying Child Language & Literacy in language, and studying Children’s Literature at the same time, while writing stories for children in Creative Writing. while studying rhetoric and persuasive language, students are writing speeches and emotive pieces, alongside reading contemporary poetry and drama.

6 FE lecturers often teach: 24 hours a week from pre-GCSE to degree level across a range of subjects as personal tutors as well as subject specialists the same students through different levels and across different subjects a number of different modules on the same degree programme

7 Implications 1. “Here I am again.” 2. “You really get to know your students.” 3. Limitations on students’ experience? 4. Comfort zones for students (and staff)? 5. Lack of time for research and teachers having a broad rather than specialised knowledge base. 6. Lack of time for developing technological innovations in teaching.

8 ‘Here I am again’ syndrome “It’s a lot – I teach on 11 modules and deliver 8 on my own.” “It’s very different from a university where you’d get about ten different people teaching on the first year. Here I do it practically single- handedly.” “I’ve taught her since GCSE, so that’s six years now. When she’s done her PGCE she wants to come and teach here too!” “I do wonder sometimes that they accept me teaching all these different topics.”

9 – but, students say: “You know, that never occurred to me.” “I’d always assume the teacher in front of me knows loads more about the subject than I do, so it doesn’t worry me.” “I suppose we’re very lucky because there’s not one tutor I don’t like – I suppose there’d be a problem if you didn’t get on with one.” “You get to know the lecturers so you don’t mind asking questions when you don’t get it.”

10 “You really get to know your students” “Tutors can adapt their teaching styles to suit the students because they get to know them so well.” (student) “It’s impossible to shut the door …” (tutor) “We’ve always had an open door policy but we’re starting to rethink that now.” (tutor) “I know it sounds like a cliché but it really is like one big happy family.” (student) “Would they manage without the support? And if not, should they really be getting a degree?” (tutor)

11 Limitations on student experience (1) Lack of choice of modules (2) Repetitive teaching styles (3) Students can become ‘institutionalised’ – set in the ways of the college; producing work which receives high marks from particular tutors; remaining within the parameters of tutors’ knowledge and understanding. (4) The tutor is required to be “a Jill of all trades” with the consequent concern, often expressed by Jill herself, that she is true mistress of none.

12 – but, on lack of choice, students say: “I like them all. I probably like the writing part least, which I suppose is ironic since I wanted to be a journalist. I thought I wouldn’t like the language … but I’ve found it’s my favourite part of the course. It’s good that we are made to do it … I was used to having options [at another university], but I think it’s advantageous that we see a part of it we might not otherwise.” “I’ve enjoyed each strand. I’ve found writing the most difficult, and sometimes I’ve failed to see the point of literary theory … Overall it’s very good. The very fact of studying language helps with writing – and the literature has been interesting. It’s broadened my outlook.”

13 More student responses: “I think it’s a stroke of genius – the way each element supports other elements.” “For example, the speech writing – learning about rhetoric and analysis of spoken language at the same time as learning to write speeches – it’s great.” “But if you don’t like it there’s no escape!” “I came to this college for that reason – I wanted to do language and literature, not just one or the other. The Creative Writing helps a lot, and so does analysing language which you don’t get in a straight literature degree.”

14 On scholarly activity: “Whatever the interpretation, respondents took pains to stress why these activities took place: ‘they are focused on excellence for our students, not upon establishing the college’s reputation for research’.” (HEFCE 2003) “Young (2002) examines lecturers’ perspectives of working in the HE in FE context, and compares their views with those of colleagues in universities. Very succinctly, FEC-based lecturers are seen to have identities characterized by strong commitments to teaching, as distinct from e.g. academics or researchers.” (Jones 2006) “First and foremost I’m a teacher, not an academic.” (college lecturer)

15 Technological innovations “We do have a VLE, but it’s finding the time to put all the stuff on there.” “Most of the interactive whiteboards and so on are dedicated to year olds, so we don’t get much chance to use them over here.” “We have to fight to keep the books and the library for English students because we’re supposed to do everything on VLEs now.”

16 Tutors also say: The most rewarding aspects are: “seeing students with non-conventional entry criteria blossom and grow, and do well on their degrees. The older students have a lot to offer in seminars and in their writing, and the younger ones benefit from this” “seeing someone who starts in September terrified, succeed and get a good mark. Those who find it a challenge are the most rewarding.” “I can’t tell you how rewarding it is – how appreciative students are of the experience they’ve had. It really makes a difference to their lives. I know that’s a cliché, but it does.”

17 Students also say: “The tutors here are marvellous – they’ve always got time for you. It’s like a family really.” “All the tutors have been brilliant, absolutely brilliant … I’m really grateful. I feel the tutors are a really good sort of bunch all together you know, we get help and we get feedback and I think it’s brilliant the way the course is run, it’s just perfect.” “The students here don’t know how lucky they are … at [another university] it was terrifying – the numbers of students and no help for mature students.”

18 “There is much that universities can learn from FE colleges, whose ‘traditional’ students may be ‘non-traditional’ HE candidates” (LSDA 2003)

19 Issues for discussion Blending language and literature Examples? Advantages and disadvantages? Relationships with university Enhancing or restraining? Issues of support for students Time-consuming but necessary? Balancing HE and FE Demands and expectations? Research and teaching Time and value?

20 References HEFCE (2003) Supporting higher education in further education colleges. Learning and Skills Development Agency (2003), LSDA responds: Widening participation in higher education. Jones, R. (2006) Scholarly activity in the context of HE in FE. Young, P. (2002) – “‘Scholarship is the word that dare not speak its name’: Lecturers’ Experiences of Teaching on a Higher Education Programme in a Further Education College”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp


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