Having finished my undergraduate studies in 2016, I was a bit nervous about going back to uni. Making a charge can be really hard, and there were lots of questions swirling around my head. Things like:

  • What will studying again actually lead to?

  • What do you want to do with your life?

  • Will you be able to do it?

  • What if everything has changed?

  • Do you even want to teach?


And all of that fun self-doubt type of stuff. But eventually, I decided to make the plunge, and I’m really happy with the decision so far! Now halfway through my first semester back at uni, here are my experiences so far of studying postgraduate teaching.


The decision

I had an inkling deep within that I wanted to study, but I wasn’t sure precisely what. I ended up browning every available course from every available tertiary institution in my region. I cut out everything that I knew wouldn’t have any appeal, and then started a shortlist of courses.

"I had an inkling deep within that I wanted to study, but I wasn't sure precisely what."

Once I had a shortlist, I had something to work with. I looked at the details of each course, including structure, price, outcomes, and available units, and gradually whittled away until I had just a few to choose from. This was a pretty time-consuming process, but my rationale was that if I was going to make a big change in my life, I wanted to be - and feel - really sure about it.

Eventually, I settled on postgraduate teaching. I didn’t know if I wanted to study primary or secondary teaching, so I prioritised a university that offered both within the same degree.


The application process

Once I settled on what I wanted to study, my focus shifted to building my application. I made sure I satisfied the prerequisites (which, incidentally, may change a little from uni to uni, so it’s worth checking individually), and then put together some things I would need, like:

  • Past study history

  • Up-to-date CV (I made sure to include relevant experience)

  • ID


Then, the application process was relatively straightforward. It was directly to the university, which made things a little easier, and included a few questions about why I was applying.

Overall, it was a less time-consuming process than expected, and a lot easier than applying for my first university degree (though maybe that was just because I was more familiar with the system!). I sent everything online, received confirmation of the application, and then had to wait for a month or so to receive the outcome.

I was very happy to be accepted!


The Casper Test

Casper is an online test you may need to sit before being fully accepted into your initial teaching qualification. It is timed, and includes a variety of scenario-based questions for you to respond to. Situations are presented both via text and video, and different questions call for either text responses or recorded responses (within certain time parameters).

The general idea is to assess your suitability to join the teaching profession. It’s one-way (so you’re not being interviewed live, but do need to have your webcam on), and the format can be a little overwhelming at first. Luckily, there are sample questions and a practice test available, and I really recommend doing this thoroughly to get familiar with what you can expect on the day.

"The general idea is to assess your suitability to join the teaching profession."


The first day

It was really interesting being back on campus! It honestly felt quite liberating - a new start, something exciting to tackle, and a fair bit of uncertainty.

On my first day, I had one class - a two-hour tutorial, which was a nice way to transition back to uni - and I enjoyed getting into things after a couple of months of waiting. Prior to week one (mostly through O-week), I made sure that I had completed all of the week one readings, so I felt prepared and ready. Something new for me was that most of the learning materials (lectures and the like) were online. We went straight into tutorials!

After class, I took a little bit of time to walk around and familiarise myself with the campus. I grabbed a coffee, took in the atmosphere, and tried to find where my next classes would be.


Classes so far

Through my undergraduate studies, I was used to having one lecture (1-2 hours) and one tutorial (usually one hour) per week. It’s a bit different with postgraduate teaching so far.

The main difference is a lot of the content is housed online; there are no longer physical readers, and there’s less emphasis on physical textbooks. You’re expected to get through online readings or preparatory tasks each week before your class.

"You're expected to get through online readings or preparatory tasks each week before your class."

I only have one class per subject per week, but they are a bit longer (two classes are two hours long, and two classes are three hours long). Some combine a lecture-type element with a more traditional tutorial format, whilst others are solely tutorials (so discussions, group activities - things like that).

Some of the longer classes can be a bit of a struggle (particularly when they’re late in the day or in the evening), but it’s all part of it. I’ve found my classes to, overall, be more engaging and probably just straight-up more rewarding than in undergrad. I think a big part of that is that everybody is working toward the same thing. It feels a lot more like an actual cohort than what I’m used to, which is a pleasant change.

There’s a focus on learning content and skills through tutorials, of course, but there are also many opportunities to model pedagogical decisions made by tutors. Thinking about why tutors are teaching things in certain ways can really be useful for your own lesson-planning.


First assessments

I was a bit nervous about getting back to assessments. Through undergrad, I felt like I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in terms of marks, and I think that was actually counter-productive to my overall uni experience (an article for another day). I really want to avoid that mindset this time around, and focus more on what I’m actually here for: to learn.

"I was a bit nervous about getting back to assessments."

All four units have two main assessments each (no exams - big bonus), and the deadline tends to fall around two major rounds of dates. I’ve just navigated my way through the first round of assessments, including three assessments being due over the course of four days!

Three of the assessments so far have essentially been lesson plans for various groups of students at varying levels of development. I’ve found these deceptively challenging, because in my experience, writing a 2,000-word essay is a lot easier than developing a 2,000-word lesson plan (or maybe I just have less experience).

The fourth subject involved a group assignment, developing a website resource for parents on a given topic, plus an individual component within the same assessment.

Overall, I was happy to get them all in on time, meaning I can now turn my attention to the second round of due dates. 😬


And soon - placement!

Coming up really (scarily) soon, I have my first ever placement at a school, which is a compulsory part of the course. Over the two years, I will have a total of four placements.

This first placement is a little bit shorter - I guess it's designed to help you transition into what will be a pretty new experience for a lot of us. Placement periods are included to provide practical experience, and I’ve heard that these experiences will really help development as a pre-service teacher.

I’m looking forward to the experience, but I’m also nervous about it. It’s quite a length from my recent experiences studying and working - something completely new!

I look forward to being able to report back with a second instalment of this diary, recounting a successful placement period. But until then, best wishes for your own studies!

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