Teaching Experience at King’s College London (UK)
Teaching Experience at King’s College London (UK)
On 1 February, I cut my birthday cake in the evening and packed my suitcase straight away, because a teaching visit to the School of Education, Communication & Society (Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy), King's College London in the UK (funded by the EU’s ERASMUS+ programme) was scheduled for February (see picture 1). Before I start, I would like to mention that I have a very positive attitude towards London and the UK in general and feel at home here every time. Exactly 10 years ago I also had an Erasmus-funded study stay at the University of Southampton at the School of Psychology - at that time I already knew that I have a strong connection to the country and the people here. Now, after 10 years, I was back in the country, this time not as a student but as a guest lecturer.
My teaching content at KCL included the areas of migration, diversity, and discrimination in Germany. My teaching visit was based in the department of the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme in the School of Education, Communication & Society.1 The PGCE programme leader is Dr. Simon Coffey, Reader in Language Teaching. The following section (taken from the homepage) explains the PGCE most precisely and best: “The King's PGCE is an initial teacher training (ITT) programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) for teaching in secondary schools (ages 11-16). The committed team of PGCE tutors provide a clear, thoughtful, and critical introduction to teaching, drawing on leading education research carried out at King's. The programme is rated as outstanding by Ofsted and is the prime choice for those who want to reach the highest levels of success in the teaching profession. We strongly welcome applications from members of black and minority ethnic communities.“2
Before my teaching stay, I had already received a schedule from my colleague Dr. Christina Richardson (Senior Lecturer in Language Education) on how I could best be involved in the research group and teaching. I immediately noticed in the plan that the team had put a lot of thought into how I could best feel comfortable and welcome and had created many opportunities for me to be embedded in the team in the short time and the many activities in which I could participate. My first day was very enriching and the sun greeted me right at the stop where I had to get off - after crossing the Waterloo Bridge (see picture 2), Christina welcomed me in front of the Waterloo Campus entrance. Already in the first meeting, I had felt a very welcome and pleasant atmosphere and Christina handed over a gift on behalf of the colleagues: I had received the beautifully colorful KCL scarf with souvenirs (see picture 3). At this point- many thanks to the team. On the first day, we also had an International Lunch, and I got into a detailed exchange with the students in a relaxed atmosphere. I was immediately struck by how interested and brilliant the students were. They were very open and interested in the topics like migration and discrimination as well as the educational processes in Germany and asked many interesting questions. I immediately noticed that the students all get very first-class teaching here. The time during my teaching stay was also very well filled - with teaching, activities, and talks.
An insight I can give, is my participation in the anti-racism reading group discussion with PGCE colleagues and colleagues from the ‘ECS Race Equality Reading Group’. Together, chapter by chapter and during lunch, we reflected on and discussed the following text: “Anti-racism framework for Initial Teacher Education/Training: Global Literature Review”.3 I also noticed during my teaching visit that different places can enrich teaching: one day we visited the famous British Film Institute (BFI), located next to the faculty, with Dr. Simon Coffey and the students, and used a film session in the Language Classrooms to design a cooperative day of teaching with a BFI staff member. What impressed me here was that students can experience top-notch teaching with high-quality tools and excellent materials, and directly transform the knowledge they experience there as well. I liked Simon's teaching style - he took every input from the students and motivated and positively encouraged them. I also noticed that he gives the students a lot of suggestions on how to make their way from studies to professional life - what aspects can help them. On another day, together with Dr. Rachel Aukett (Senior Lecturer) and the students, I visited the National Theatre (again located right next to the faculty). Here we used the space to create the lessons. Again, I felt that the students were excellently prepared for their future work and experienced top-class teaching. Rachel is a very positive lecturer, here I have also been able to directly feel that her positive aura and enthusiasm is directly transferred to the students. With the German colleague Angélique Arts (Teacher of German), who has now lived in London for many years, I have had a super enriching exchange - Angélique is a true creative wonder regarding the use of authentic materials in teaching and teaching methods. With Dr. Christina Richardson, we worked with students to create the Discussion Group,“Decolonizing the Curriculum”. Here we read and discussed Lisa Panford's text “Race and Racism in Secondary Modern Foreign Languages”4 and found space for reflection and exchange together. From Christina, I learned how self-evaluation and learning journeys can be embedded in teaching in creative and smart ways. Christina is also the editor of the “English as an Additional Language” (EAL) Journal “National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum” (NALDIC).5 When she told me about NALDIC, I felt how interdisciplinary and diverse Christina’s experiences in research and teaching are: We exchanged research ideas on the link between language and migration, and she offered to write an article for the journal on this topic. A highlight was also that I was allowed to give a talk and workshop one afternoon on the topic: Belonging and Equivalency (see picture 5). Many colleagues around the faculty were invited by Dr. Christina Richardson. During the lecture, I presented the project results of our project ZuGleich “Belonging and Equivalency in Germany” (funded by Stiftung Mercator to Prof. Andreas Zick at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at Bielefeld University) and afterward classified and discussed them together with the colleagues and the students. The enriching discussion showed that we need cross-cultural research projects here (especially between UK and Germany) on the issues of belonging and equity to empower ethnic and marginalized minorities and groups and to understand in a more comprehensively their challenges and experiences on different levels. Afterward, many messages reached me from colleagues at KCL and one sentence I took away the most (from Dr. Jane Jones, Senior Lecturer in Education): “...and please, my new friend, stay in touch with me.” In my eyes, this brief glimpse into the phrase expresses a lot about my stay and the great hospitality of the KCL staff.
During my teaching stay, I unfortunately received very sad news from my home country in Turkey. The earthquake also shook me deeply because Turkey is the home of my parents and I feel very rooted there - even though I was born and raised in Germany. My colleagues, but also the students showed a lot of solidarity, and we did a ‘Minute of Silence and Remembrance’ together for the victims in Turkey and Syria .
Since the beginning of the organization for the teaching stay, everything has come together so ‘easily’, like pieces of a puzzle that you quickly put together. On the part of Bielefeld University, it helped that the Faculty of Educational Science (especially the administration and the ERASMUS team) and the International Office took care of all the organizational steps for me very well and always answered very quickly when I had queries. They did an excellent job of organizing everything for me on an administrative level. On the part of the host institute, the openness and friendliness and the flawless administration of the International Office and the department helped me. As a preparatory measure, my Teaching Certificate ‘Professional Teaching Competence for Universities’ (which I had already completed at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Bielefeld University)6certainly helped me and when I just got started - I was sure what I wanted to teach about and had planned everything. However, I was always open if something should change or be modified - I had communicated this with my colleagues beforehand. After I got back to Germany I stayed in contact with Christina, and how I could participate in the online version of the Anti-racist reading groups. Christina has been a very reassuring and friendly colleague – I felt that I was very lucky to have a colleague directly who welcomed me with open arms and kept academic and personal contact with me afterward. Of course, I am very happy to be able to continue participating in the reading groups and will continue to be active here. I will miss my walks after teaching because the university was so well and centrally located. I could always take a little walk right under the London Eye by the river after work (see picture 6).
I recommend my colleagues to consider a teaching stay abroad as part of their teaching, even if it is only for a short time. The scientific exchange, getting to know other teaching methods and the enrichment that comes with it, and the exchange with international students is worth it to leave your own comfort zone. A big thank you to Dr. Christina Richardson, Dr. Simon Coffey, Dr. Jane Jones, and the many colleagues at KCL, as well as a big thank you to my PhD supervisor Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick, who also provided great support to make this path possible.
 See https://www.ncl.ac.uk/mediav8/institute-for-social-science/files/Global%20Literature%20review%20-%20final.pdf#page=25
 See https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/einrichtungen/zll/
Description: View of the main street in the entrance area of the Waterloo Campus (Credit: Zeynep Demir)
Description: Morning walk across the Waterloo Bridge to the Waterloo Campus (Credit: Zeynep Demir)
Description: Gift from colleagues - the colorful KCL scarf (matching my diversity themes) (Credit: Zeynep Demir)
Description: Entrance area of the National Theatre in London (Credit: Zeynep Demir)
Description: Opening slide from my presentation for the talk “Belonging and Equivalency in Germany (Credit: Zeynep Demir, Presentation)
Description: View during an evening walk after work (Credit: Zeynep Demir)
Zeynep Demir (MSc) is a psychologist, researcher and lecturer. She works in the research group Socialization (Prof. Andreas Zick's Lab) at the Faculty of Educational Science and she is member of the project “ZuGleich -Belonging and Equivalency” funded by Stiftung Mercator, at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) at Bielefeld University. Her research focuses on migration, acculturation, discrimination, racism, and diversity. As part of her academic service work, she is currently the Chair of the Equality Commission at the Faculty of Educational Science.
The blogs represent the authors' point of view.